Fraudsters who ran Islington letting agency Crestons left tenants and landlords £105,000 out of pocket
PUBLISHED: 18:05 11 December 2018 | UPDATED: 18:30 11 December 2018
Three men behind a Caledonian Road letting agency that didn’t return tenants’ deposits or pass on rent to landlords have been convicted of fraud.
The conmen, who ran companies in Islington and neighbouring boroughs under the trading name Crestons, left at least 19 victims about £105,000 out of pocket.
Mohammed Rayn Mashuk, 42, and Mohammed Ibrahim Ali, 37, were convicted of one count each of carrying on business for a fraudulent purpose, as officers of Sirs Associates Ltd, trading as Crestons.
They were cleared of the same offence as officers of Sirs London Ltd trading as Crestons.
Ahmed Ali Syed, 37, was convicted of one count of carrying on business for a fraudulent purpose, as an officer of Sirs London Ltd trading as Crestons. He was cleared of the same offence as an officer of Sirs Associates Ltd trading as Crestons.
During their five-week trial at Blackfriars Crown Court, the jury heard from more than 30 witnesses. Between 2014 and 2016, the men failed to refund deposits at the end of tenancies, failed to pass on rent to landlords and did not put tenants’ deposits in protected schemes.
The investigation was triggered by complaints from tenants and landlords who had fallen victim to Crestons. The convictions follow an investigation by Islington’s trading standards team and the town hall lawyers.
Crestons became notorious on renting forums where tenants and landlords documented their experiences. One user who paid a deposit in 2016 only to be told one day before the moving in day that the flat was gone, wrote: “Horrible experience me bf and I are now back living in me parents front room!!”
Another said dealing with Crestons was the worst experience they had ever had.
And Andrew wrote in 2015: “DO NOT USE THIS AGENT. After paying a holding deposit of £840, the rental fell through as the landlord changed his mind. Fair enough. However over 3 months down the line, Crestons have still not returned the holding deposit.”
Islington’s housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward said: “This is a major victory for the council, on behalf of private tenants and landlords not just in Islington and London but across the country – sending the message loud and clear that rogue letting agencies cannot rip off their clients and get away with it.
“Prosecutions like this are rare but vital in the fight for better standards in the private housing market. We won’t stop here.”
The council’s trading standards team is now pursuing confiscation orders to claw back as much money as possible for the victims.
The men will be sentenced in January.