Former Hampstead lettings manager used keys held by estate agents to burgle homes
PUBLISHED: 07:00 05 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:26 05 October 2017
A former Hampstead lettings agent stole thousands of pounds worth of cash and belongings from people’s homes by posing as a lettings agent to secure keys from other agents.
Ben Papantoniou, a former manager at Benham & Reeves Residential Lettings in Hampstead, who once appeared in a reality TV show, was sentenced to 30 months in jail at Blackfriars Crown Court on September 21 for his spate of crimes between June and August this year.
The 34-year-old pleaded guilty to five charges of fraud, four charges of burglary and one charge of theft.
Papantoniou, of Powis Gardens, Notting Hill, managed the Benham & Reeves Residential Lettings branch in Hampstead from August 2016 until March 2017.
But three months after leaving the company he began his crime spree, the court heard.
On five separate occasions Papantoniou posed as a lettings agent with different companies across London to secure keys for fake viewings.
He would then use the keys to access properties and steal items while the occupants were out.
He fraudulently obtained keys from estate agents including; Knight Frank, Chestertons, Foxtons, and Kinleigh, Folkard and Hayward, purporting to be from a different agency on each occasion.
He burgled properties in Primrose Gardens, Belsize Park, Hillfield Road and Achilles Road, in West Hampstead, as well as others in South London.
In his first offence on June 9, he stole a rucksack, handbag, jewellery, cosmetics, €150 and 500kr from the house on Primrose Gardens after conning Knight Frank to hand over keys by saying he still worked for Benham & Reeves.
Almost three weeks later on June 28, he stole a gold coin, a pair of shoes, a bag, a wallet, £30 and $800 from a property on Pavilion Road in Knightsbridge.
He then secured keys for a third burglary on July 10 in Stanhope Gardens, Kensington, where he stole £2000, €200 and 3,000HK$.
On the final burglary charge on August 16 he stole a watch and ring from a house in Hillfield Road, West Hampstead.
On the same day he stole a freedom pass from a property in Achilles Road, West Hampstead, which resulted in a theft charge.
In total, Papantoniou stole more than £3000 in Pounds, Euros, US dollars, Hong Kong dollars and Krona.
Papantoniou had also been a star of the Channel 4’s Notting Hill based ‘reality TV’ show Seven Days in 2010, portraying a lothario lettings agent.
Vidhur Mehra, director at Benham & Reeves Residential Lettings, which is a completely separate company to Benham & Reeves sales, said: “Ben Papantoniou was employed by us from August 8 2016 and his contract was terminated on March 23 2017 for reasons unrelated to his recent convictions.
“We keep a tight control of our keys. Our understanding is that Ben fraudulently posed as an employee of Benham & Reeves Residential Lettings sometime after he had left our company.”
A spokesperson for Foxtons, one of the letting agents affected confirmed they had compensated the tenants involved: “We are sorry about the distress caused to the affected tenants by this fraudster. The tenants were compensated for the loss incurred as a result of this dreadful situation.
“We’ve reviewed our security procedures as a result of this isolated incident and re-affirmed the importance of extra vigilance to our front office staff.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Kinleigh, Folkard and Hayward said: “We have robust security systems in place for holding and releasing client keys.
“This was an isolated incident and as a result our procedures have been reinforced across our network of 60 branches.”
Giles Milner, marketing director of Chestertons, said: “As one of London’s largest lettings agents, Chestertons has a number of checks and strict procedures in place to prevent fraudulent activity such as this but we urge all agents, landlords and tenants to always remain vigilant and report or further investigate any suspicious activity.”
Knight Frank declined to comment.
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