Lettings boss convicted of two counts of fraud
JASON Ranford, director of the Brunel Rooms, has been convicted on two counts of fraud for taking deposits worth more than £1,000 for rental properties, with the intention of depriving his victims of their money.
During March and April of this year, Ranford advertised properties on Gumtree, and after taking deposits and promising tenancy agreements, failed to move his victims in or refund their money.
Ranford, speaking in his own defence, claimed he had been unable to give the victims refunds because his previous company, JR Lettings, was in the process of being liquidated at the time.
He said that because he had lost his own house in the process, he had to move in to one of the properties he had already taken a deposit for.
But the court heard how Ranford had signed a fake name on one of the deposit receipts, and had not been acting under the name of the company.
The court heard how Caroline Rhead, 42, paid a £100 deposit to secure a house in Covingham, and an additional £200 for a garage key which turned out not to work at the house.
Giving evidence, Mrs Rhead said: “I thought the house was perfect, in the right area and what I could afford.
“He signed the deposit receipt in front of me with the name J Bladfred. I did not know his real name at the time.”
After receiving the key which failed to work, Mrs Rhead was unable to access the house, and her moving in date passed.
“I probably sent him about 20 text messages, but from most there was no response. When there was he said he was busy.”
Ceri Thomas, 38, lost £750 after responding to a similar advert on Gumtree for a house in Haydon End.
“I was looking at private renting, and I went into Gumtree because it was cheaper than an agency,” she said. “I gave him £750 for a deposit. I handed my notice in on the other property, but they allowed me to return when it became clear I would not be moving.
“Eventually he said he had refunded the money into my parents’ account. But that never happened.”
Speaking at Chippenham Magistrates’ Court, Ranford said: “I was too proud to admit my company was failing. I hold my hands up to the money not being refunded, but the truth is I was trying to get the money back. My company had gone into administration for the fourth time.”
Nick Barr, for the prosecution, said: “You deliberately withheld this information from the police because it might affect your application for a licence.
“When you took the money from these two people your business was in trouble. You never had any intention to pay them back, and you wanted the money for your new business, the Brunel Rooms.”
Chair Nick Stephens, summing up, said: “In the case involving Mrs Rhead the deposit was taken and she was issued a handwritten receipt with no evidence of JR Lettings. You have acted in your own right to deprive Mrs Rhead of her money.
“In the case of Mrs Thomas, you took the deposit agreeing to issue a tenancy agreement in three working days, but later admitted you could not do this by law, and 12 days later you moved into the property. Then you took the money with the intention of never repaying it.”
Ranford was found guilty of both charges.
Sentencing has been adjourned until tomorrow at Swindon Magistrates’ Court.