Letting agents fraud case dismissed after thousands are returned
THE case against three lettings agency bosses accused of fraud has been dropped after they returned thousands of pounds in deposits to landlords.
Toni, Jacqueline and Kayleigh Burridge, formerly directors of Hothomes UK Ltd, were accused of falsely claiming that deposits were guaranteed in a secure bank account.
The trio had allegedly claimed the company was part of a registered deposit protection scheme so money would be returned if the firm was liquidated.
Toni, aged 41, Jacqueline, aged 41, and Kayleigh Burridge, aged 20, all of Collingwood Villas in Stoke, had each denied a joint charge of fraud by false representation between October 31 2010 and July 1 last year.
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They were due to go on trial before Plymouth Crown Court later this month.
But Alistair Verheijen, for the Crown Prosecution Service, offered no evidence on the charge.
Recorder Michael Hubbard dismissed the case.
Mr Verheijen said the family had handed back about £3,500 to the police, which would be returned to the landlords.
He added resident judge Paul Darlow had asked the CPS to reconsider the case.
Mr Verheijen said: "If the lost deposits are repaid the Crown cannot see the public interest in proceeding with the case."
The Burridges were not in court.
Magistrates were told at a previous hearing that deposits paid to the agency should have been maintained in a separate bank account.
Prosecutors said if the business failed the deposits could be returned and would not go to other creditors.
The Herald reported that Hothomes UK closed its offices in Stoke village in July last year.
It had opened there for business only in the previous August.
The Westcountry Landlords Association immediately raised fears about rent payments and deposits.
Hothomes was thought to have employed about eight people and did business in residential and commercial sales, conveyancing, financial services and producing Energy Performance Certificates.
The Burridge family, which moved to Plymouth from North Devon in 1998,
started a business producing EPCs in Stoke, in 2007.
A year later they started a business
producing more than 100 Home Information Packs (HIPs) a week.
But two years ago the Government scrapped HIPs, causing the business to close. The family then started Hothomes.