A London estate agent who stole holding deposits worth £20,000 from at least seven vulnerable tenants to fund his gambling addiction has been given a 21-month jail sentence suspended for two years.
Ilford-based Usman Khalil was unmasked as a fraudster in 2015 when a demonstration by his victims took place outside his lettings agency, Home Hunter Properties on Goodmayes Road in Ilford (pictured, above). It was later dissolved as a business and struck off the Companies House Register.
Khalil originally pleaded not guilty at a hearing in August but was taken ill and then changed his plea to guilty prior to the retrial.
A complex investigation by local Trading Standards officers, the legal team of the local council and police found that Khalil would accept holding deposits from tenants in cash but then later reimburse them via a cheque.
These cheques would invariably bounce even though Khalil had sufficient funds in other accounts. Khalil also took holding deposits fraudulently for properties that he had already rented out.
At Snaresbrook Crown Court it was revealed that one couple who lost several thousand pounds were then unable to afford another deposit and were made homeless.
“You had no basis to take holding deposits as you were not the sole agent,” said His Honour Judge West-Knights QC.
“The reality was that you were gambling away your clients’ money. Vulnerable people, people of low income, desperate for a home were using you as an agent of last resort. They gave you all their money and more.”
Khalil was ordered to pay back £12,350 and was disqualified from being a company director for seven years. He must also seek help for his alcohol and gambling addictions.