A rogue letting agent who defrauded his customers of more than £80,000 has been banned from acting as a company director for eight years following action by Suffolk Trading Standards and the National Trading Standards (NTS) Tri-Regional Investigations Team.
Francis Smart, who traded as Smart Residential Letting Agents in Newmarket, is already serving a 32-month sentence after being found guilty of two counts of fraud in August last year. Smart pocketed tenants’ money instead of paying it into a Deposit Protection Scheme. He also withheld rent from landlords and failed to respond when landlords and tenants tried to contact him about their money.
Officers from Suffolk Trading Standards worked alongside NTS colleagues to secure the conviction after more than 30 witnesses alleged that they had faced substantial losses after using Smart’s services.
On 15 June a judge at Ipswich Crown Court agreed that Smart should be disqualified from acting as a company director for eight years. Smart’s actions were described in court during his original sentencing as “particularly sad”, with the judge adding Smart had “betrayed those who trusted you and caused a lot of distress”.
Graham Crisp, Head of Suffolk Trading Standards, said: “Francis Smart being banned from being a director of any company registered in the UK for eight years is an excellent outcome for Suffolk Trading Standards and our colleagues from the National Trading Standards Tri-Regional Investigations Team, who I would like to personally thank for their help with the matter.
“Yesterday’s ruling also means that Smart is not allowed to be involved in the forming, marketing or running of a company for the same time period, which should bring some comfort to his clients who lost thousands of pounds due to his lies and deceit, and that he will not be able to repeat these actions once out of prison.”
Councillor Andrew Reid, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Public Protection, added: “I am continuously grateful to officers from Suffolk Trading Standards for their tireless work to rid our county of rogue traders, enabling residents to remain protected and creating a level playing field for legitimate businesses.
“Securing justice against Francis Smart is the latest in a long line of successful court cases for the team, and I have no doubt that their actions have stopped landlords, including those who bought an investment property to fund their retirement, from facing any further losses from a despicable fraudster who didn’t think twice about blatantly disregarding the law.”
By law, a deposit must be placed in a Deposit Protection Scheme within 30 days of the landlord receiving it, and landlords are also obligated to provide information to tenants about where their deposit is held.