Barnet-based letting agents on trial for conning residents and landlords
- Credit: PA WIRE
A group of north London letting agents have been accused of conning tenants and landlords out of hundreds of thousands in rental scams.
The employees of the once named Churchill Residential letting agents collectively face six counts of fraud.
The trial of Corinne Marcus, Martin Marcus, Nadim Khan, Stacey Heffernan, Michael Page and James Day opened on Monday at Harrow Crown Court, where a jury heard of the “dishonest” ploy to trick people in north west London.
The defendants all face five counts of fraud, with Corinne Marcus facing an additional charge of money laundering.
Gordon Menzies, speaking for the prosecution, opened the case, saying: “This is case that could be described as fraud, dishonesty or stealing.
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“Tenants would hand over money to the property and that money would disappear into the business.
“The company assured clients it would put their money in a ‘ring-fenced client account’ but if you look at this ‘client account’, it was used for coffee shops, underground stations, EasyJet tickets, transactions made in Spain and Virgin Active memberships.
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“Often the tenants would not even get a property. Many got nothing. Some got a cheque from Mrs Marcus’s bank account which then bounced.
“It was not clever but it was fraud and it worked.”
The group are accused of renting out properties without the permission of the owner and pocketing the rent themselves, as well as encouraging multiple tenants to pay deposits for the same properties which they failed to put into appropriate deposit protection scheme.
Mr Menzies added: “One tenant’s rent was being paid by the housing benefit scheme so you would assume that at least this money would go to the landlord, but no, it went into the business. This is dishonest.”
The company’s name has changed numerous times and has included Corporate Relocations, A&A Properties, Churchill Residential, JMJ Residential LTD, and Anthony Grant.
Central to the case are Mr Marcus, who allegedly introduced himself as Geoffrey Lewis to customers, and Mrs Marcus. They have even been accused of trying to rent out the home where they were tenants and were eventually evicted for not paying rental fees.
Mr Menzies said: “When we look at the accounts we see that the family is in trouble and there are repeated uses of payday loans. It is easy to understand how desperate Mr and Mrs Marcus were if they were under financial strain. The Crown believes that she held the purse-strings but the day-to-day running was by Mr Marcus.
“As for the rest of the group saying they were unaware of any dishonest behaviour; it is a small team so to suggest you did not know what was going on is something that the jury will have to consider with care.
All have pleaded not guilty. The trial is due to last six weeks.