An estate agent branded as "thoroughly dishonest" following a Gumtree scam has been jailed for 20 months, suspended for two years.
The Devon Live website reports that Andrew Boyne, an agent at Martin & Co in Exeter, demanded holding fees and advance rent for houses which he advertised as being to let on Gumtree but which were in reality on the sales market and not available for occupation.
Boyne, a gambling addict, used a mobile phone to arrange viewings; Devon Live claims he obtained up to £850 from each of 13 clients and then stopped taking their calls.
It also claims that a family were left homeless after they paid a deposit, gave notice on their own rented accommodation, and then discovered that their new home was not available.
Boyne, who now works at a call centre in Plymouth, netted £7,840 from the frauds, although he has now repaid £650 to one customer.
In addition to the suspended sentence Boyne was ordered to do 250 hours unpaid work and pay £5,000 compensation.
The judge at the trial at Exeter Crown Court said: “You are a thoroughly dishonest man. This was not one offence carried out on the spur of the moment. You formed the view, as an intelligent man, these were offences which it was possible to commit.
"You used your position ... and your Gumtree account to remove relatively small amounts from people who could ill afford to lose it. The consequence to one man was that he became homeless.
"These were financial crimes, but they were not victimless crimes. You have come within a whisker of going to prison."
You can see the full Devon Live story here.