Letting agent Heather Crabb has been jailed for living a champagne lifestyle on other people’s money after stealing £220,000 from landlords and tenants spending it on luxury cars and holidays.
Crabb, 52, of Plymouth, Devon sucked her business, Drake Homes, dry of cash over a four year period before the business finally crashed in September 2016.
Crabb was found to have bought a holiday home in Florida, two upmarket cars and invested in a tanning salon with money she should have safeguarded for her customers.
Plymouth Crown Court also heard she spent cash on paying off debts and a £3,000 flight to New York.
Around 32 landlords have lost thousands in unpaid rents or reimbursing students who had their rental deposits stolen.
Fellow director Jill Wood, 57, also stole £30,000 from the lettings agency to pay for a home for her son.
“At the heart of this case was a culture in the business where money from deposits and rents paid to Drake Homes was treated as if it were the defendants’ own,” said Edward Bailey, prosecuting.
“In the year 2016/2017, 250 students deposited £98,000 with the business. Crabb would use money from one year’s tenants to pay back cash owed to the previous year’s intake.”
Money was also transferred from client accounts to business accounts to cover Crabb’s spending.
She admitted false accounting, two counts of fraud by abuse of position and two theft charges.
Wood pleaded guilty to a joint charge of false accounting and theft.
Crabb was jailed for three and a half years, while Wood was given a 22-month prison sentence suspended for two years.
This case highlights what can go wrong when unscrupulous agents fail to protect their client’s money against theft or misappropriation. Fortunately, as of 1st April 2019 letting agents in England are now required by law to belong to an approved client money protection scheme to protect landlord and tenant money. Landlords should ensure that their agent has signed up to a client money protection scheme such as Client Money Protect. Our article, ’Client money protection – what do landlords need to know?’ tells you all you need to know to ensure that your money is protected.