The director of a lettings and property management agency who defrauded more than £230,000 from the landlords and tenants that were his clients has received a two-year prison sentence, following an investigation by Southampton City Council’s Trading Standards Service.
Andrew Whitehead had pleaded guilty to three counts of fraudulently trading, one count of forging a bank statement and four counts of using forged bank statements.
Whitehead was sole director of The Flat Agency and Michael Brown’s Ltd, Property Vibe Ltd and TFAMB.COM Ltd, all trading in Southampton.
The council said that between April 2013 and February 2017 the defendant was fraudulently trading by failing to pass on rent to landlords, failing to return tenants’ deposits and using the money to pay for business and personal expenditure.
When complaints made by tenants and landlords to The Property Ombudsman were upheld, the Ombudsman’s awards and compensation were unpaid. This led to The Flat Agency, Michael Brown’s Ltd and Property Vibe Ltd being expelled from The Property Ombudsman’s redress scheme.
The council said landlords and tenants affected struggled to pursue their complaints as the companies moved business premises without informing them.
Whitehead was sentenced at a hearing at Southampton Crown Court on 13 December.
Cllr Jacqui Rayment, Cabinet Member for Place and Transport at Southampton City Council, said: “The actions of the defendant were carried out with a complete disregard for the financial wellbeing of both the landlords and tenants who had entrusted their funds with Mr Whitehead’s businesses. This conviction will hopefully give some moral satisfaction to the victims of Mr Whitehead.”
The city council’s Trading Standards Service was assisted on the case by Trading Standards Regional Investigation Team.