Crooked Cheltenham letting agent Ryan Lee admits swindling tenants
AFTER 10 months on the run overseas, Cheltenham letting agent Ryan Lee has returned to the UK to face justice.
The 24-year-old lined his own pockets with £13,500 he had taken from 13 customers of his company Panache Lettings, which was based in Bath Road.
His victims believed their money would go into a secure deposit account.
Lee, from Cheltenham, should have faced justice at Gloucester Crown Court in April last year, but he fled overseas and was believed to be hiding out in Belgium.
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He was finally arrested at Heathrow Airport on January 22, after flying in from Kuala Lumpur.
On Tuesday, Lee was taken to Gloucester Crown Court again, where he pleaded guilty to 11 charges of engaging in unfair commercial practices, for offences committed between February 2009 and 2010 where he made false representations to tenants.
Judge Jamie Tabor QC remanded Lee in custody until February 26 when he will return to Gloucester Crown Court for sentencing. The judge had already sentenced Lee to six months in prison for breaching bail by skipping the country last April.
Richard Tucker, defending, said Lee would return to live with his mother in Cheltenham when he left custody. Husband and wife Chris and Lucy Mallows were among Lee's victims. They handed him £900 they believed would go into a secure deposit scheme.
They also discovered that money they had given to Lee to pay their first month's rent had not reached their landlady.
At the time, Lucy and Chris were setting up their own oven cleaning business, Cheltenham OvenClean, and said they could not afford to lose the cash.
Lucy said: "We were shocked. We found out Panache was a new and young business, and we were pleased to support a local firm."
The charges related to properties Panache was renting out in Cheltenham, in roads including Mill Way, Squirrel Close, Bath Street, Hewlett Road, Great Norwood Street, Naunton Crescent, Montpellier Spa Road and Pittville Lawn.
When tenants first realised they had been conned and went to Panache in Bath Road to investigate, they found the shop stripped of computers and in darkness.
Lee had never registered with Association of Residential Letting Agents, which regulates its members.