A mother and daughter who were found guilty of running a fraudulent property lettings agency in Truro, Cornwall, received prison sentences at Truro Crown Court last week.
Elizabeth Ann Treneer, 38, admitted running a fraudulent business designed to deprive its victims of rental and deposit payments. She also admitted having tried to undermine the criminal investigation by manufacturing false documents.
Her mother, Angela Colleen Treneer, 72, admitted abusing her position of trust by failing to ensure that deposit and rental payments were properly safeguarded and passed on to customers.
Elizabeth Treneer was sentenced to 40 months in prison; Angela Treneer was sentenced to 20 months.
The Court heard that the investigation by Cornwall Council Trading Standards was prompted by a number of complaints from landlord and tenant clients of Premier Property Management.
The investigation found that since 2009 more than 40 people had been defrauded by the business with losses exceeding £266,000.
When challenged by clients about the absence of payments, a series of false excuses had been given, including accountancy problems, computer system failures, banking problems or other reasons for late and non-payment of rent.
The court heard that the Treneers were moving the money from business accounts into their own personal accounts to maintain their lifestyles.
In passing sentence Judge Robert Linford described the fraud as “…dishonesty on an industrial scale.”
He also noted that the Treneers did not care whether the victims were vulnerable or not.
Councillor Sue James, Cornwall Council’s Cabinet Member for the Environment and Public Protection, praised the efforts of the Trading Standards team.
She said: “The time, effort and dedication involved in bringing this fraudulent business before the Courts cannot be underestimated. Both offenders lied to the investigating officers in the same way as they had been lying to their clients for almost 10 years.
“Many of the victims were vulnerable, either because of their age, their financial position or because they were working far from Cornwall and these two women took full advantage of that.
“In handing down such penalties, the Court has clearly recognised the despicable nature of the offending in this case.”
Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, compensation for those who have lost money to the fraudulent business will now be sought.