A rogue estate agent, who fled the country after stealing over £48,000 in tenants' deposits, was jailed for twenty months yesterday.
Manish Manek, 54, who also ripped-off landlords, his own staff and other creditors, only returned when he thought a bankruptcy petition had wiped the slate clean.
“These offences were committed repeatedly and you consciously decided to use other people's money and caused a lot of misery,” Judge Michael Hunter told him at Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court.
One widow, who entrusted Manek with her rental portfolio had to repay tenants £14,000 out of her own pocket and another landlord complained of “anxiety” and “sleepless nights.”
Manek, of Springfield House, Mill Lane, Taplow, Maidenhead pleaded guilty to seventeen counts of theft, totalling £48,716.
He is now claiming Jobseekers Allowance and renting a room in a shared house.
Prosecutor Miss Amanda Bostock told the court three members of his own staff at Kingston’s 'Je Je Barons' reported him to police on October 16, 2012.
“Staff had received calls from tenants that their deposits had not been registered with the Deposit Protection Scheme.
“They had been paid straight into the defendant's personal bank account.”
He told staff he was going into hospital to have a tumour removed form his liver, but in reality sold up his house and fled with his wife and young daughter to India.
He left behind staff and creditors, who were owed £18,500.
Manek was arrested at Heathrow Airport when he returned to the UK on September 24, last year.
None of the stolen money has been recovered and Manek is now subject to a Proceeds of Crime Act investigation.
His lawyer Mr. Russell Fraser told the court the economic downturn of 2008 was the start of Manek's troubles.
“He moved the money around to pay rent and wages and was stealing from Peter to pay Paul.”
Manek's wife, who works for Kingston council, was supporting him in court.
“This is a bad example of breach of trust,” Judge Hunter told the first-time offender. “You were entrusted to hold other people's money in a professional capacity and you stole that money.
“I would be failing in my duty to protect the public by not passing an immediate custodial sentence today.”
Detective Constable Paul Lawlor, from Kingston CID, said: “Manek stole from the very people who were paying him to manage their properties and keep his business running.
“He blamed his criminal activities on his huge debt, his ill health and the health of family members.
“Regardless what his personal circumstance may have been, it does not justify resorting to criminal activities thinking it is an easy route out.“Because of his actions, Manek is not only serving a custodial sentence in jail but has also lost the reputation he once had within his community.”