A FATHER and son left landlords and tenants thousands of pounds out of pocket in a payment scam.
Crooked letting agents David Carr, 58, and Peter Carr, 27, made more than £15,000 by keeping cash paid in to Town and Country Estates, in Millfield, Sunderland, for themselves.
Newcastle Crown Court heard that when worried customers began to realise their money might be at risk, the pair put shutters up at their Chester Road offices and “disappeared” for more than a year.
It was after some of their victims tracked them down trading from a back office in Blind Lane, Silksworth that the police became involved and the pair were arrested.
They admitted theft and fraud charges between October 2008 and June 2009.
Prosecutor Michael Graham said landlords and tenants lost out because of the duo’s dishonesty.
Landlords had been falsely told tenants in Sunderland properties were behind with rents, when they queried why noting was being paid.
The tenants, however, were usually up to date with their payments, but the Carrs had been keeping the cash.
One potential tenant paid £1,160, borrowed from his wife’s boss, to secure the rental of a property at Enid Avenue, Fulwell.
But Mr Graham told the court: “The property was in fact already tenanted.”
Judge James Goss told the Carrs: “I accept this was a business that became dishonest, having been an honest business.
“It became dishonest when the economic downturn caused increasing difficulties for businesses of this kind.
“There is no excuse for what took place. You have admitted your crimes.
“Your actions have caused anxiety and some hardship for your victims.
“They remain your victims, uncompensated.”
The judge sentenced Carr senior to 30 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 200 hours’ unpaid work and ordered him to pay £5,826 in compensation to the victims, at a rate of £300 per month.
The judge deferred sentence for three months in the case of Carr junior, to allow him time to attempt to find employment so he too can pay compensation.
Judge Goss told them: “In addition to punishment of you, I have an endeavouring to ensure victims receive at least some compensation for having their money stolen from them or being defrauded of their monies.”
Defence barristers said the pair, now of Fern Avenue, Stanley, did not set out to defraud and are determined to repay their victims.