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Lettings Fraudster Jailed By Dorchester Crown Court

Janine Pickett

1:57pm 22nd December 2014

Janine Pickett, of Gillingham, was handed a 32-month prison term at Dorchester Crown Court today, Monday 22 December 2014, for fraud by abuse of position.

The 46-year-old had pleaded guilty to the offence on 30 May 2014 at the same court.

The court heard that Pickett plundered the money from the Shaftesbury office of Dorset Lettings which she ran under franchise. Between January 2010 and November 2013 she stole £375,000 of customer deposits and rental payments from bank accounts she managed.

Further investigations revealed that Pickett had altered documents including bank statements and financial audit records in an attempt to cover up the theft.

During her offending Pickett lived well above her means and financial records showed she had spent the stolen money on buying a number of Welsh ponies, one of which cost £7,000. She also took out a Hire Purchase Agreement for a new BMW and enjoyed a number of holidays, including trips to Florida, France and cruises around the Mediterranean.

Detective Constable Declan Cummings, of Weymouth CID, said: "Janine Pickett's selfish actions have had a significant impact on a large number of people. Not only the innocent customers who handed over their deposits and rent in good faith, but also Barrie George who is the owner of the Dorset Lettings brand. He runs three of the six businesses himself and the remaining three are franchised.

"I hope the sentence handed out today sends a very strong message that crimes such as this will not be tolerated in Dorset."

Barrie George, Director of Dorset Lettings, said: "On behalf of everyone at Dorset Lettings including the staff, landlords, tenants and suppliers, it is gratifying to see that justice has been served.  

"It has been a particularly stressful time for everybody and hopefully the conclusion of the legal case will help bring closure for all those directly affected.

"Fortunately, Dorset Lettings is an ethical ARLA licensed agent and client money protection insurance is a condition of the license.  We were able to make claims on behalf of all the landlords involved and facilitated the claims for tenants to get their deposits back.

"We responded quickly to this crisis and I would like to pay tribute to all the staff who worked tirelessly under the most trying circumstances to help our customers. We continue to go from strength to strength."

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