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Letting agency director who stole nearly £100,000 for drugs and alcohol will repay £22,000

PUBLISHED: 16:49 08 January 2018 | UPDATED: 08:31 09 January 2018

Norwich Crown Court. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norwich Crown Court. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

A letting agency director managing a large portfolio of Norwich properties who stole nearly £100,000 to help fund his drug and alcohol addiction will repay just over £22,000.

Stephen Webster, 38, who ran The Letting Business, stole the cash from the landlord whose lets he was meant to manage, Norwich Crown Court heard in July last year.

John Morgans, prosecuting, had said the thefts came to light after the landlord became dissatisfied with the way his portfolio of around 95 properties was being run by TLB and had figures checked by an accountant, who found that in total £97,498 was missing.

He said the matter was reported to police, who discovered Webster had also pocketed a deposit of £695 from another landlord.

Webster, of Norwich Road, Dereham, admitted the thefts which were in breach of trust and took place between 2014 and 2015.

The court heard he had a previous conviction for fraud in 1999 when he worked for Camden council.

But after hearing that Webster had now sought help for his drink and drug problem and paid back the £695 to one landlord and more than £30,000 to the other landlord, Recorder Frank Burton imposed a 20-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered him to do 200 hours unpaid work.

A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing today heard Webster had benefitted to the tune of £63,080.38, and had £22,296 of assets, tied up in equity on his home.

John Farmer, mitigating for Webster, said the money had been a gift from his father.

“In March 2017 his father gave him and his wife £35,000 to facilitate making the purchase,” said Mr Farmer. “Had the father gone on assisting them paying rent, that money would not be there.

“To make the order is to deprive himself and his wife of the gift. I would ask whether that is fair or just in the circumstances.

“Not only does that make him homeless, another unfortunate development is he had a heart attack before Christmas and had a stent put in, so he won’t be able to work for some time.”

Recorder Guy Ayers said gifts were not unusual and “there is nothing unfair or unjust” about ordering compensation.

“It is my view that compensating the losers in this case is a priority,” he said.

Webster has three months to repay £22,296.

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