A fraudster who posed as a fake letting agent and pocketed £10,000 in deposits for properties he did not have permission to rent has been arrested after more than a month on the run.
As we reported in December last year, James Bennett (pictured, right) was sentenced to six years in jail at the Inner Crown Court during a trial at which he faced 17 counts of fraud.
The 32-year-old had listed numerous properties on SpareRoom.com over a 12-month period ending in December 2016, asking potential tenants for deposits for properties he did not own or manage, and pocketing the cash.
Many tenants did not find out about the scam until they turned up at the properties to move in, only to discover that they were not available to rent.
The listings were for four properties Bennett had lived in within south London and had fraudulently advertised to rent out while he was waiting to be evicted.
In total Bennett took 17 deposits each worth £725 from tenants who were often so desperate to find accommodation in the capital that they made easy targets for his scam.
Bennett was arrested in November 2016, made a full admission during a police interview, was charged with the offences but later pleaded not guilty at Camberwell Green Magistrates’ Court (pictured, left) and then went on the run.
He was tracked down, re-arrested last week and, after appearing in court, had a month added to his sentence for his failure to attend the original court case.
The ease with which fraudsters such as Bennett are able to extract deposits from victims along with the scale of the problem, were highlighted recently in a report that revealed at least £1 million of tenant deposits were stolen or scammed last year.