An estate agent who stole £357,000 from landlords and tenants and left suppliers and staff out of pocket after getting into financial difficulties has been ordered to pay just £1 back.
Clifford Wheatcroft (pictured, below) opened his Bournemouth lettings agency Real-Est8 Property Solutions in 2009 but by 2012 it was in financial difficulties and he began using tenants’ deposits and rent payments to keep his business afloat.
Real-Est8 eventually went into administration and Wheatcroft initially told police that the business had got into difficulties after he lost a big landlord client.
The former estate agent’s business model was also said to have been a contributing factor; Real-Est8 charged landlords just £50 a month per property for a tenant finding and deposit/rent collections service.
But ‘lengthy and complicated’ investigations by Dorset police found that the then 35-year-old had spent much of the cash on holidays and shopping sprees.
In February last year he was sentenced to 17 months in prison suspended for two years and told to complete 250 hours of unpaid work after admitting eight counts of theft.
But financial investigations by the Crown Prosecution Service have failed to find any of the missing cash and Wheatcroft has now been told to pay a token £1 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
At a hearing earlier this week Wheatcroft was warned by Stephen Climie QC at Bournemouth Crown Court that the Proceeds of Crime Order would stay with him ‘for life’ until the debt was repaid.
“Should he receive a boost in his financial circumstances it will be allowed for some of the money to be reclaimed to pay off the debt,” Mr Climie said.
“He is not getting away with just paying £1 and it’s important that is known at a public hearing.”