A man from Newton Abbot has pleaded guilty to nine offences of fraud in relation to his former estate agency.
Russell Baker, 58 pleaded guilty at Exeter crown court on Friday 19th February.
The court was told how Baker had pocketed money from deposits on rented properties. He had also failed to pay landlords rent, keeping the money himself.
Investigators also found that a couple had paid Baker a deposit of £22,500 for the deposit on a house purchase. The deposit was never passed on to the couples solicitor.
Friends and family of Baker had became victims, with him borrowing money to ‘help his business through a rough patch’
Investigators found victims that had lent Baker sums from £500 to £105,000 resulting in the loss to victims totalling £455,000, although Baker only faced charges relating to £255,000 because one victim had died. Only a tiny proportion of the money that Baker ‘borrowed’ was returned to the lenders.
Councillor Croad said: “Baker was unscrupulous in deceiving his customers, his friends, and the authorities. He was such an accomplished cheat that some of the friends that he betrayed didn’t see themselves as the victim of a crime when initially approached by the investigators. Baker’s activities have had a massive impact on many people in the Bovey Tracey area but it was their willingness to support this investigation that has produced this successful conviction. This has been a complex investigation, involving hard work from our officers and also invaluable assistance from Devon & Cornwall Police.”
Sentencing has been formally deferred until Monday 12 September 2016 so that Baker’s assets, which are currently restrained by a court order under the Proceeds of Crime Act, can be sold and compensation can be made available to the victims on a pro-rata basis. Baker is co-operating with this process.
Councillor Croad said: “This is a fantastic use of the Proceeds of Crime Act by the Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service. They have identified assets belonging to Baker, had those assets restrained by the Crown Court, and are now seeking to return monies to the victims of these crimes.”
Detective Constable Richard Griggs, Totnes CID, said: “Baker brought misery to many people and abused his position in the community. This co-ordinated investigation with Trading Standards is an excellent example of how agencies are working together to bring offenders to justice.”