A CONMAN who used his job at a Coventry estate agents to trick students into paying deposits totalling thousands of pounds for flats they could not move into has been jailed.
Barinder Uppal cheated 12 mainly overseas students and a man who wanted to buy a house to get money to support his gambling addiction.
The 29-year-old of Achilles Close, Heathcote, Warwick – who worked for Coventry estate agents Reed Rains at the time – was jailed for 12 months after pleading guilty to 13 charges of fraud.
Mr Uppal began placing adverts on the internet offering student accommodation in June last year.
He arranged viewings before taking cash or bank transfer deposits from the students – all bar one of which had come to study in the UK, meaning English was their second language.
The fraudster, who had been given a conditional discharge for a fraud in 2014, made a total of £13,560 from his deception – obtaining as much as £5,500 from one man who was looking to buy a house and £250 from a student.
Following complaints to the police, Mr Uppal – who lost his job as a result – attended a police station by arrangement in September and said he had carried out the frauds to fund a gambling habit.
Jailing Mr Uppal, Judge de Bertodano said: “You worked for a short time as an employee of an estate agent.
“While you were in that job you managed to persuade a number of people you had accommodation to let, when you did not.
“You arranged a viewing and then took deposits on the promise that those people would have somewhere to live.
“Thirteen people were taken in in that way – part of that was because you were targeting foreign students who did not know how the UK property market works, that makes what you did very serious indeed.
“It is a great pity to see someone like you using your intelligence to defraud people in this way.
“There was significant planning in this fraud and a large number of victims.
“I am pressed by your lawyer to suspend the sentence on the basis that you can pay the money back.
“But I don’t see why your family should bail you out – and this is not the sort of offence you can buy your way out of.
“There must be a custodial sentence that will be immediate.
“The message must go out that someone who uses their position to defraud vulnerable people in this way must got to custody.”