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Rogue estate agent forced to cash in pension to pay back fraud victims

Russell Baker is taken back to court and forced to cash in policy after total amount stolen from clients and friends revealed to be much more than originally thought.

Nigel Lewis

A rogue estate agent has been reduced to living in a caravan and has had to cash in his pension after being returned to court two years after initially being convicted of fraud to pay back the friends and clients he stole money from.

Russell Baker, 60, is now thought to have taken £400,000 from people in and around Bovey Tracey (pictured, right) and South Dartmoor in Devon during 2013 to help keep his sales and lettings business, Ashby’s, afloat even though he knew the people he borrowed the money off would not get it back.

Baker was a director of three companies which claimed to operate as estate agencies in Devon, all of which have now been dissolved. These are Ashby’s Estate Agents (Devon) Limited, Ashby’s Estate Agents Limited and Baker Lewis Ltd.

He had originally told those giving him the money that he wanted to use the cash to buy out a business partner and solve a cashflow bottleneck, but also used classic ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ tactics to try and keep his business going.

This included pocketing one couples’ £22,500 pre-contract deposit for a property purchase, Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service found during its investigation into Baker.

Rogue estate agent

After a court case in 2016 during which he was convicted of stealing £123,927 from nine people – and received a 20 month sentence suspended for two years and was ordered to complete 160 hours’ community service – Baker was returned to court on Friday after it emerged that the total amount of money he obtained through fraud was actually £400,000.

During this court appearance at Exeter Crown Court under the Proceeds of Crime Act, Baker was ordered to cash in his only significant asset – his pension – and hand over its £6,541 value to be distributed among the victims, who are likely now to only receive half the money he stole from them.

February 14, 2018

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