Three jailed over fraudulent sales of repossessed properties

Three individuals have been sentenced to jail at Wolverhampton Crown Court for fraudulent sales of repossessed properties that generated over £133,000 in profit, following an Office of Fair Trading investigation.

Thomas Kelly was, until June 2011, branch partner at Connells’ West Bromwich office. He was convicted of offences in connection with a series of purchases of three repossessed homes marketed by Connells after pleading guilty in February of this year.

He was sentenced to six months imprisonment suspended for 12 months, as well as a community supervision order for six months to include 180 hours of unpaid work.

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His wife Samantha Kelly assisted him in each of these frauds and was found guilty after pleading guilty to three offences in June. She was sentenced to a six month supervision order.

The third defendant, Andrew Butts, also worked as an estate agent in the Connells’s West Bromwich office and was convicted of a similar fraud in relation to another repossessed house. He was given a conditional discharge for 12 months.

Between April 2009 and May 2011, Thomas Kelly arranged for his wife to buy three repossessed houses, which were being marketed by his employer Connells. In each case, he did so without having declared his personal interest to the seller.

To disguise the fraud Mr Kelly registered them on Connells’ internal systems under his wife’s name. He also hid the fact that she was the purchaser of these properties by overriding Connells’ internal audit processes and by forging the signatures of other staff.

The husband and wife duo then arranged for a quick sale of the three houses, making a total profit of £98,550.

Following a tip off, the OFT investigated a further fraud and established that Mr Butts acted as the estate agent for another repossessed home, which was bought by his brother-in-law in March 2010.

Following some minor cosmetic work, this property was sold four months later in July 2010, making a profit of £34,500.

The OFT investigation was launched after Connells became aware of suspicious activity in their West Bromwich Office and reported their concerns to the OFT in late 2011.