Three men behind letting agency Crestons have each been sentenced to 28 months in prison after leaving at least 19 victims in London more than £105,000 out of pocket.
Mohammed Rayn Mashuk, aged 42 Mohammed Ibrahim Ali, 37 and Ahmed Ali Syed, 37, ran companies in Islington and neighbouring boroughs using the trading name Crestons.
They and were convicted of carrying on business for a fraudulent purpose in a trial at Blackfriars Crown Court in December last year following a major investigation by Islington Council.
Between 2014 and 2016, Crestons failed to refund deposits to private tenants at the end of their tenancies, failed to pass on rent to landlords, and failed to put tenants’ deposits in an approved protection scheme.
The five-week trial heard testimony from more than 30 witnesses.
In a sentencing hearing at Blackfriars Crown Court last Thursday (January 17) Mashuk, Ali and Syed were told that they will each have to serve at least half of their 28-month sentence before being released on licence.
They were also each disqualified from acting as a director of a company for a period of eight years.
In her sentencing, Judge Sullivan said: “This is a case of deliberate reckless trading carried out over a lengthy period of time” and that “offences of this nature undermine confidence in the lettings sector”.
The council investigation, partly funded by the National Trading Standards (NTS), was triggered by complaints from tenants and landlords who had fallen victim to Crestons.
Councillor Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, said: “We welcome this landmark sentence, which is a major victory for private tenants and landlords not just in Islington but across the country and sends the message loud and clear that rogue letting agencies cannot rip off their clients and get away with it.
“In London’s crowded rental market, tenants are spending huge percentages of their income on rent and rental deposits, so it’s vital that they are protected from bad behaviour by shady letting agents.”