Crooked Kettering letting agent must pay £1m or face seven years in prison

Harpreet Garcha.
Harpreet Garcha.

A former letting agent from Kettering who conned tenants and landlords with fraudulent invoices must pay £1m - or face up to seven years behind bars.

Harpreet Garcha, who ran property lettings franchise Belvoir in Kettering, Desborough and Corby, was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison in 2016.

The court heard how Garcha, 41, of Bath Road, fraudulently generated significant profits at the expense of tenants and landlords by dishonestly increasing the cost of maintenance and safety work.

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He was also convicted of money laundering, VAT fraud and insurance fraud.

The offences were committed between 2008 and 2012.

At a hearing last Friday, a confiscation order for £1.006m was made under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 – the largest confiscation order ever secured by Northamptonshire trading standards officers after the investigation by their team.

Of that, £51,000 will be paid out in compensation to Garcha’s former tenants and landlords who were victims of his offences.

Garcha will face up to seven years in prison if the order is not paid in full.

County council cabinet member for public protection, strategic infrastructure and economic growth Cllr André Gonzalez de Savage said: “This confiscation order against Harpreet Garcha is by far the largest order ever secured by Northamptonshire Trading Standards and is entirely fitting for the shocking level of offending by this individual.

“This is an amazing result for trading standards and reflects the hard work of the officers involved in carrying out both the criminal and financial investigation.”

Garcha’s fraudulent business practices first came to the attention of trading standards officers when a landlady made a complaint about being overcharged for routine maintenance at her rented home in Kettering.

Upon querying the cost of safety checks, she had been provided with invoices for £502.50.

These were fakes as the contractor doing the work had only charged £166.25.

New owners took over the Belvoir franchises in 2014.

Belvoir Property Management (UK) Ltd, the franchisor, is not the subject of any action relating to this case.

One of his victims told the Northants Telegraph Garcha got what he deserved.