The owner of a Northampton estate agents branch that was shut down two years ago has been imprisoned for theft and fraud.
Pete Bell, 36, formerly of Wootton Hill Farm, Northampton, was sentenced in Northampton Crown Court on Monday (May 22) after pleading guilty to 11 counts of theft and four counts of fraud.
He was the franchise director of the Enfields estate agents office in Mercers Row, Northampton, which was closed overnight by Enfields head office after the company became aware of 'serious financial irregularities' in August 2015.
In an unannounced visit, they discovered that Bell had defrauded his clients and landlords of around £92,000.
Ian Soulsby director of Enfields, said: "We reported our findings to the police immediately and he was arrested shortly after.
"It was a very considerable amount of money and must have been taken from an untold number of landlords."
A police investigation found Bell had acted with his ex-partner, Rebecca Kirton, 28, formerly of Wootton Hill Farm, Northampton, to divert funds from the company by convincing clients and landlords to deal in cash.
They were secretly using tenant deposits and rental money to pay for an expensive rental property, lease cars and foreign holidays, including a trip to the Monaco Grand Prix.
Bell was sentenced to 26 months in prison by His Honour Judge Timothy Smith. He has also been disqualified from operating as a company director for five years.
Rebecca Kirton pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud and was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to carry out 175 hours of unpaid work.
Mr Soulsby said: "We are very pleased with the outcome and the thorough investigation by the police.
"Enfields has taken extra precautions since this case began to make our systems more secure."
DC Paul Houghton-Draeger, who led the investigation, said: “This outcome is the result of a lengthy and complex investigation involving a large number of victims who have lost substantial amounts of money through the dishonest actions of someone they had placed their trust in.
“Mr Bell’s behaviour represents a massive betrayal of that trust and it is hoped that this result will go some way to making things right. In the meantime, the investigation continues and efforts are ongoing to recover some of that money and compensate those who have lost money through their dealings with Mr Bell and his company.”