A letting agent jailed last week after he admitted to stealing at least £45,000 from tenants and landlords is to serve a one year and eight month sentence.
Judge Philip St John-Stevens at Maidstone Crown Court handed out the sentence after detailling how Lee Grace, 42, had stolen from tenants and landlords over a 15-month period in order to bankroll his gambling habit.
Grace (pictured, left) pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud and a further charge of transferring criminal property under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
He had been employed by Kings Hill Properties in the village of Kings Hill near West Malling in Kent to collect tenants’ rents and deposits, but instead of banking the cash into the agency’s bank accounts, often instead spent the money gambling online or in betting shops.
Kent Police say at least 44 tenants were affected by his dishonesty and that in one case a tenant made a payment of £13,438 but there was no evidence it had ever been deposited.
Grace hid his fraud by juggling payment from various tenants into different accounts but, in February 2016, his activities were uncovered when a landlord raised concerns that they had not received any rent.
This was reported to Kent Police and Grace was subsequently arrested.
“Grace has abused the good faith and trust shown in him by his employer in the worst possible way,” says Detective Constable Craig Malthouse of Kent Police.
“Grace didn’t stumble into criminality by chance. He is a repeat offender and took this job knowing fully that it would give him the opportunity to steal and defraud. A custodial sentence is therefore entirely appropriate.”
It has been a bad time for the reputation of the lettings industry in recent days. As well as Lee Grace, former letting agent and TV reality star Ben Papantoniou was jailed for 30 months after tricking other agents into giving him keys to properties for fake viewings, and then stealing items while the tenants were at work.