BY TOBY PORTER
A man who conned prospective tenants out of more than £10k by pocketing deposits on flats he had no right to let has been jailed
Police had previously appealed for the public’s help to trace James Bennett, 32, who was wanted for failing to appear at court.
Bennett, pictured, of no fixed abose, was due to face trial at Inner London Crown Court on Monday, December 11, charged with 17 counts of fraud.
He was found guilty in his absence on Wednesday, December 13 and he was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on Friday, December 15 for the fraud offences.
A warrant was issued and Bennett was arrested by officers on Friday, January 26.
He appeared at Inner London Crown Court later that afternoon and was sentenced to a further month’s improsonment to run consecutively for failing to appear at court.
Between late 2015 and December 2016, Bennett made numerous listings on the Spareroom.com website advertising rooms for rent at four separate properties in Brixton, Walworth, Elephant & Castle and Tooting.
Bennett obtained more than £10,000 by conning prospective tenants out of deposits for flats he had no right to let.
In each case he had no permission to rent out those rooms and was in the process of being evicted.
In all 17 cases he took holding deposits of up to £725 each from people desperate to obtain accommodation. In total he obtained more than £10,000.
Bennett made no attempt to hide his identity and gave tenancy agreements to each victim. He also willingly provided copies of his passport and other documents to prove his identity in order to dupe his victims who had all made reasonable attempts to ensure he was genuine.
Many of the victims only found they had been defrauded when they turned up on the agreed day to move in.
This led to huge inconvenience for people who could ill-afford the loss of such a large sum of money, and in more than one case left the victim homeless. One victim had to spend Christmas in a hostel.
Bennett was arrested in November 2016 and initially denied the offences. When confronted with further evidence in May 2017, he made a full admission in interview.
He was charged with 17 offences but, despite his full admissions in interview, pleaded not guilty at Camberwell Green Magistrates’ Court.