Beccles man who ran property management company ‘frittered away’ £118k he stole from tenants and landlords

Ipswich Crown Court

Ipswich Crown Court - Credit: Gregg Brown

A 64-year-old Beccles man who “frittered away” £118,000 he stole from tenants and landlords while running a property management company has walked free from court after a judge decided not to send him straight to prison.

Stephen Heath, of Maple Way, Beccles admitted 21 offences of theft and was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years.

He was also ordered to do 150 hours unpaid work in the community and given a six-month curfew.

A nominal £1 confiscation order was made under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Sentencing him at Ipswich Crown Court, Recorder Richard Christie, said the case involved a breach of trust resulting from Heath diverting sums of money from tenants and landlords.

He said that an aggravating feature of the case was that the offences were committed over a period of more than six months.

Recorder Christie said tenants had been put in potential jeopardy after losing their deposits as a result of Heath’s dishonesty and their landlords thinking they had not been paid.

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He said the most worrying aspect of the case was that there was no explanation about where the money had gone.

The court heard that Heath, who suffers from depression and has a permanent tremor, had expressed remorse for what he had done.

The judge said that Heath, who lives in sheltered accommodation, was the primary carer for his wife and had no previous convictions.

He accepted he had not “salted the money away” and had run his business lawfully before the offences.

He said that despite his medical problems Heath was keen to do unpaid work in the community and should therefore be allowed to give it a try.

Matthew McNiff for Heath, said the thefts committed by his client were not sophisticated and were doomed to failure.

He said there was no evidence of Heath leading a high life.

“Where has the money gone? It’s just been frittered away,” said Mr McNiff.

“He simply has no idea and is completely dumbfounded by the sheer amount involved.

“Sometimes he is coherent, but at other times he is completely bewildered by life in general,” he added.