A letting agent responsible for liaising with dozens of potential tenants and landlords has been found guilty in stealing more than £23,000 in tenants’ money to fund his gambling addiction and repay a gambling debt.
40-year-old letting negotiator Paul Philipps-Young of Kittlingbourne Brow, Higher Walton, Preston, pleaded guilty to fraud and was given a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months with 100 hours unpaid work. Since the man had repaid some of the embezzled money, he was ordered to pay £5,400 in compensation in a Preston Crown Court hearing this week.
The incident took place in 2015 and 2016 when the letting agent committed several frauds over a seven-month period by taking rents upfront from tenants and spending the money himself. At that time, the man was employed by Reeds Rains as a lettings negotiator and one of his responsibilities included collecting rent from clients. The payments had to be made by either bank card, credit card, direct debit or bank transfer bank card, credit card, direct debit or bank transfer into the company account.
Reeds Rains, one of the oldest real estate and letting services firms in England and North Wales, has a “clear payment policy” to not accept cash to prevent fraud, prosecutor Mercedes Jabbari explained before the court. However, the defendant instructed tenants to pay cash into his account. The fraud involved seven different properties in the Preston area and the suspicious activity was detected by the real estate agency, which had their accountant investigate the case.
The firm found out that its employee had taken some of the rents he had been responsible for and then, tried to pay back some of the stolen funds. According to case evidence, £23,315 was placed into the defendant’s account, while £14,195 remained outstanding. In June 2016, Paul Philipps-Young was confronted by his manager and admitted to having stolen the money due to a gambling problem.
Fraudulent Actions Fueled by Gambling Addiction
When interviewed by the police, the letting agent said he was involved in a gambling syndicate and “incurred debts to an individual”. As he was unable to pay off his gambling debt, threats were made to his family, the man explained. This forced him to “to engage in this fraudulent activity”.
His debt has since then been repaid in full and Mr Philipps-Young had offered to repay the money he had embezzled from his former employer in monthly instalments. Defence barrister Andrew Nuttall added that his client had sought assistance from Gamblers Anonymous, an international organization that offers support for compulsive gamblers through a 12-step program.
The Preston incident is the latest example of how gambling may affect gamblers and their families. Problem gambling has been found to fuel other addictions, anti-social and criminal behaviour, and to lead to serious health problems and suicide. The Gambling Commission estimates that there are roughly 340,000 problem gamblers in the UK, while many more people are at risk.