Sheffield fraudster who conned clients in prison appeal

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THE owner of Sheffield letting agency who conned clients out of £60,000 has been told by top judges her jail term was ‘firm but fair’.

Karen Lesley Mackey used deposits and payments collected on behalf of landlords to try to stem the losses in her failing business, London’s Criminal Appeal Court heard.

The 38-year-old, of Hamstreet Road, Ashford, Kent, was jailed for 18 months in June after being found guilty of fraudulent trading but challenged her sentence.

They said the judge who jailed her did not take enough account of the fact she was a single mother and sole carer for a daughter with learning difficulties.

But the judges said the sentence was ‘severe, but not excessive’, given her ‘thoroughly dishonest’ conduct.

Mr Justice Sweeney told the court Mackey formed Urban Letting Company Ltd, which let properties in the Sheffield area, in 2006.

Landlords would either pay a fee for the agency to find tenants and collect deposits and rent, or pay a larger fee for the agency to manage and maintain the properties as well.

Over at least five months in 2008, Mackey used deposits and payments from tenants totalling £60,000 to try to plug the shortfall.

When landlords demanded their cash, they were fobbed off with plausible excuses, but eventually contacted police when their money never materialised and Mackey was arrested in January 2009.

Some tenants’ deposits were not put in assured tenancy schemes, as they should have been and they had to claim them back directly from landlords - leaving landlords further out of pocket.

Mr Justice Sweeney said: “This was, in our view, a severe sentence, but not one which can be characterised as excessive.”