Estate agent spared jail for £30,000 fraud

AN ESTATE agent left tenants facing eviction and landlords unpaid after pocketing nearly £30,000 and going on two luxury holidays.

Friday, 20th May 2016, 6:01 am
Fraudster Nicholas Dowse

Nicholas Dowse kept thousands in rent, deposits and service charges for homes across the city when he ran Harmsworth Estate Agent, in Copnor Road, Copnor, Portsmouth.

Instead of paying on the cash, the 46-year-old went on lavish holidays to Las Vegas and Egypt, funnelling thousands from the business he ran with his wife.

David Reid, prosecuting, said: ‘He was clearly spending more than he earned.

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‘He knew his spending was requiring him to bolster his personal finances from injections from his business. He was continuing, knowing most of his landlords simply weren’t getting paid.’

Dowse, who was known as Nick Harmsworth at the time, even told one employee at his firm he was sick and was due to be ‘tested’ but not to worry as ‘life insurance’ would cover everything.

Mr Reid added: ‘He and his wife not only went to Las Vegas in June 2013 but a couple of months later to Egypt in August 2013.

‘While they were there the employees were left to deal with unpaid gas and electric bills, an outstanding £4,000 water bill. The internet got cut off as the bill was unpaid.’

He added that when employees contacted Dowse he ‘simply lied’ to them and said ‘don’t worry, everybody has been paid’ despite tenants turning up saying they had been threatened with eviction. ‘He told that employee not to tell anyone, he was on holiday but instead to tell the various people turning up he was ill,’ Mr Reid added.

The frauds included:

n Keeping six months of rent for a property in Jordan Court, Arundel Street.

n A new tenant moved in to Jordan Court unapproved by the landlord and Dowse kept rent and the deposit.

n Dowse won a contract from The Berger Group for four properties but when the group’s former agent transferred deposit and rent for flats in Kingston Road flats and two homes in Chichester Road, Dowse kept it.

n One of the charges relate to Dowse keeping service charges for the flats.

The frauds, which ran between April 2012 and September 2013, totalled £1,430 in deposits, £15,251.84 in rent and £13,206.54 in service charges – totalling just under £30,000.

Sentencing Dowse to 21 months in prison, suspended for two years, judge Roger Hetherington said: ‘You abused your position by defrauding clients in the main who were landlords of properties.’

The court heard Dowse, of Copythorn Road, Copnor, is a carer for his wife and he ran into difficulties when she could no longer work at the business.

Kelly Brocklehurst, for Dowse, said: ‘These frauds lack any sophistication they were deemed to fail, they were desperate measures being a man trying to prop up his business of course doing so dishonestly.’

Dowse pleaded guilty to 10 counts of fraud and one failure to surrender to custody. He must pay £1,200 prosecution costs and complete £200 hours unpaid work with a £100 victim surcharge.