Barking, Ilford and Plaistow money launderers sentenced over fake rent scam

Two children reported missing have been found safe and well. Picture: Met Police

Two children reported missing have been found safe and well. Picture: Met Police - Credit: Archant

Three fraudsters from Barking, Ilford and Plaistow who received rental payments for properties that were never available to rent have been sentenced for money laundering.

The sentences, handed down at Snaresbrook Crown Court, follow an investigation led by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, which found that Oliver Knights, an online property letting business, was being used as a vehicle for fraud that led to at least £50,000 financial loss for tenants and landlords.

On June 27, Shaidul Islam, 29, from Ilford, and Kamran Malik, 31, from Plaistow, were both sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for 18 months.

Adnan Iqbal, 34, from Barking, was sentenced to 10 months, suspended for 18 months on September 21, 2019.

All three defendants pleaded guilty to money laundering, having knowingly allowed their bank accounts to be used to launder the proceeds of lettings frauds between the December 31, 2013 and September 4, 2015.

The proceeds specifically relate to rental payments received for properties that were never available to rent.

The investigation was prompted by more than 40 complaints to Action Fraud and Citizens Advice about Oliver Knights, and exposed how the business was used a vehicle for fraud, causing financial loss, distress and significant inconvenience for prospective tenants and landlords.

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It is not suggested that the defendants were involved in the underlying frauds.

Oliver Knights would advertise properties to let on websites such as Rightmove, Zoopla, Gumtree and their own site to attract interest from prospective tenants.

After initial dialogue and property viewings, would-be tenants paid deposits and rent in advance - totalling hundreds or thousands of pounds - only to be told that the property was no longer available, or to not hear anything further from Oliver Knights.

Some of the properties offered for rent had never been available and had been falsely advertised without the consent of the owners.

In other instances, consumers paid deposits and rent and moved into the property before discovering that the transaction had been completed without the landlord's knowledge or without the necessary payments being passed on to the landlord by Oliver Knights.

This left some renters without a home and caused financial loss to landlords.

Lord Toby Harris, chairman of National Trading Standards, said: "The defendants knowingly allowed fraudulent payments to be made into bank accounts and - while not being the architects of the fraud - have benefitted financially from fraudulent activity.

"We are determined to clamp down on those who benefit from the financial exploitation of others and I am grateful to our investigators for their determination to secure justice and compensation for the victims, who have been left out of pocket and, in some cases, emotionally scarred.

"The internet is a natural place to search for rental properties, but online search portals can be manipulated by criminals and it's important to be vigilant.

"You should always check properties through accredited schemes - such as the Residential Landlords Accreditation Scheme or the National Approved Letting Scheme - and avoid paying deposits before you have visited the property yourself.

"Importantly, never feel pressured to transfer money to strangers."