An estate agent from Farnborough has been sent to prison for using thousands of pound of clients money to support his failing business
A bent estate agent who siphoned off thousands of pounds from his clients to prop up his failing business has been jailed.
Peter Quinlan, 53, of Alexandra Road in Farnborough, fleeced 26 landlords out of nearly £35,000 before declaring bankruptcy last year.
At Winchester Crown Court on December 6, Judge Peter Henry heard how Quinlan desperately tried to save his ‘dream’ business before it went under, leaving him with nothing.
Judge Henry sentenced Quinlan to 10 months in jail, describing his fall from grace as a ‘very sad story’, after the defendant pleaded guilty to one count of fraud by abuse of position.
“I accept you have not lived an extravagant lifestyle,” he said. “But this was a confidence fraud characterised by multiple transactions.
“While the amount was towards the bottom end of the scale, there were aggravating factors – this went on over a significant period of time.
“Although it wasn’t fraudulent from the outset, nor was it for personal gain, it was a foolish and dishonourable decision to keep your business afloat.”
Prosecutor Matthew Lawson said the fraud arose out of Quinlan’s operating Ben Daniels Estate Agency in Farnborough.
“The company would find tenants and collect rent and deposits on behalf of landlords,” he said. “These deposits would be held using a deposit protection scheme.
“In July 2012, Mr Quinlan ceased trading and declared bankruptcy. It transpired the deposits had not been held securely and had been used to run the business.”
Mr Lawson said Quinlan accepted the business had struggled financially after a number of partners left the company with bad debts.
“He admits failing to protect these deposits,” said Mr Lawson. “He was an estate agent for 25 years. Some clients go back more than 10 years. He feels dreadful about what he’s done.”
Mr Lawson said 26 complainants were left out of pocket to the tune of £34,450. He added Quinlan’s offending was not fraudulent from the outset but became so and continued over a period of time.
The court heard from Quinlan’s ex-wife Suzanne, with whom he has four boys between the ages of 18 and 27, who described him as a reliable father who would do everything for his family.
“Peter has also helped care for my two daughters I had during my subsequent relationship,” she said. "He is a very important part of their lives. They turn to him as a father.
“Peter worked very hard for his business - it was his dream. He knows he has done wrong but he always wanted to get back on track. He is not a bad person.”
Stuart Weston, defending, said while a ‘tragic loss’ to the landlords, Quinlan had lost everything - his good name, his reputation and his life.
“The money was not used for his own personal benefit,” said Mr Weston. “He put it back into running the business to keep it solvent.
“He has tried to find work but property management is a very small community, people are aware locally of his offences.
“It was completely out of character, something he regrets. There was no personal gain.”
Passing sentence, Judge Henry added he took into account Quinlan’s previous good character and his ex-wife’s ‘powerful’ testimony.