A victim of a Kettering letting agent who conned tenants and landlords out of £200,000 says he was “nasty” and “got what he deserved”.
Harpreet Garcha, who ran Belvoir property lettings franchises in Kettering, Desborough and Corby, was jailed for two years and nine months last week after admitting the fraudulent activity following a trading standards investigation.
One of his victims was Trish Beckett.
She rented out her daughter’s property in Melton Street, Kettering, through Garcha while her daughter was abroad.
She said: “We always had problems with pricing and noticed a few discrepancies but whenever we asked questions he was always evasive.
“Our tenant had so many problems so we decided to visit the house and it was in a terrible state.
“We went to the agents and we were shown three original invoices which were hugely different to the invoices we were sent.
“In one instance we were charged £312 but we found it should have been £58.
“We went to trading standards and they were the first people to believe me, it was such a relief.”
To disguise the practice Garcha set up a second, sole trader, business called Kettering Property Maintenance (KPM) which the contractors would invoice.
KPM would then appear on the landlords’ monthly statement with the inflated cost.
Garcha, 39, of Bath Road, Kettering, admitted two counts of fraudulent trading, two counts of money laundering, five counts of insurance fraud and one offence of VAT fraud, committed between 2008 and 2012, at a hearing in November.
He was jailed last week at Leicester Crown Court for two years and nine months after admitting fraud against both tenants and landlords.
Mrs Beckett added: “He used headed paper for contractors but when we rang them up they said they’d never been anywhere near the property.
“We probably lost about £1,800 and the compensation we received didn’t cover it. Harpreet Garcha was a very reluctant person and came across as if he didn’t care.
“He always acted very polite but he was nasty and lied a lot, and even threatened me with legal action in an email.
“I was left very upset and frustrated by his actions and he got what he deserved.
“He knew what he was doing and at the end of the day he conned a lot of people.”
Cllr André González de Savage, county council cabinet member for strategic infrastructure, economic growth and public protection, said: “This investigation by Northamptonshire trading standards officers revealed a shocking level of deceit to defraud tenants, landlords and various other parties.
“I am delighted that, thanks to the hard work of trading standards, we have been able to bring this prosecution against Garcha and hope this case will reassure people that we will not hesitate to take action against rogue traders.”
Trading standards is now conducting a financial investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act with a view to seeking a confiscation order.
New owners took over the Belvoir franchises in 2014. Belvoir Property Management (UK) Ltd, the franchisor, is not the subject of any action relating to this case.