Crooked Letting Agent Conned Victims Out of £400,000

A disgraced letting agent who conned £400,000 out of friends and clients has been ordered by a judge to repay £130,000 to his victims. 

Russell Baker, 59, pocketed thousands of pounds from rents and deposits he had collected for landlords and tenants. 

His scam was revealed when landlords complained to the police and trading standards about their missing payments. 

The crook also persuaded friends and family to hand over cash to prop up his failing letting and estate agency, Ashby’s in Newton Abbott, Devon. 

They were pleased to do so as he offered them high-interest rates and a written loan agreement - but they did not know he had no way to repay them. 

Baker’s property business was already hugely in debt, not paying any tax, and heading for collapse. 

He was sentenced to 20 months in prison, suspended for two years, and 160 hours of community service after admitting nine charges of fraud at an earlier hearing. 

A judge at Exeter Crown Court determined he had benefited by £400,000 from his crimes and ordered he must hand over £123,000 he made from selling a plot of land and that he must cash in a pension to raise another £6,500. 

Baker is still liable to pay the remaining £170,000 should he come into any money. 

The prosecution was brought by Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service.

“This has been a painstaking investigation, both in relation to the original offending and the financial aspects,” said interventions manager Stephen Gardiner. 

“Pursuing the finances has meant that over £130,000 will be paid in compensation, which is an excellent use of the Proceeds of Crime Act. Fraudsters need to know that crime won’t pay.”

One landlord failed to persuade a civil court that Baker owed him money. The court ruled that the debt was owed by his company rather than a personal one.

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