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Secret snap captures £1.25m property crooks
26 May 2016
A London council buy to let licensing scheme uncovered a gang of crooks running an illegal property rental network.
The crooks set up fake identities and businesses to cover their tracks, but were eventually caught after painstaking detective work – and a stroke of luck.
One suspicious tenant took secret pictures of the crooks and passed them to housing officers at Newham Council, who used them to unpick the string of bogus businesses.
Six men and a corporate letting agent faced 115 charges at Thames Magistrates Court relating to the letting and management of five rental properties in Newham, East London.
They were fined a total of £43,740 and ordered to pay £35,168 costs.
Soon after Newham Council started the selective licensing scheme for all private rented homes in the borough in January 2013, housing officers noticed discrepancies between tenancy agreements, property owners and letting agents involving the same group of homes.
The homes had been converted into bedsits without planning permission, had no council licences and failed to comply with housing health and safety rules.
The gang had more than 25 businesses involved in letting the properties. The companies started trading and closed quickly, had the same crooks involved in their management but under different identities and collected rents in cash.
The court was told tenancy agreements were designed to strip tenants of their statutory rights, deposits were never placed in deposit protection schemes and none of the properties were licensed by the council.
- Luis Limongi admitted 38 charges and was ordered to pay £18,450 fines and £10,415 costs.
- Ney Limongi admitted 46 charges and was ordered to pay £14,040 fines and £14,690 costs.
- Christian Limongi, was found guilty in his absence and ordered to pay £4,050 fines for 12 charges, and costs of £3,456.
- Lenner Guaman was found guilty of one charge in his absence of 12 charges and was ordered to pay a £300 fine and £250 costs.
- Leandro Velez was found guilty of 12 charges in his absence and ordered to pay £4,050 in fines and costs of £1,832.
- Alex Ibarra was found guilty of seven charges in his absence and fined £2,550 with costs of £4,275.
- London Rooms Rental Limited was found guilty of one offence and fined £300 with costs of £250.
Details of almost 100 other London rental properties owned by the gang have been circulated to other councils, while Newham Council reckons the crooks netted more than £1.25 million in cash from rents.