A Warwick conman who used his job at an estate agents to trick students into paying deposits totalling thousands of pounds for flats they could not move into has been jailed.
A judge at Warwick Crown Court heard that Barinder Uppal cheated 12 mainly overseas students and a man who wanted to buy a house to get money to support his gambling addiction.
Uppal, 29, of Achilles Close, Heathcote, Warwick, was jailed for 12 months after pleading guilty to 13 charges of fraud.
Prosecutor Paul Dhami said that in June last year, while he was working for Coventry estate agents Reed Rains, Uppal began placing adverts on the internet offering student accommodation.
A number of people contacted him, and he arranged viewings before taking cash or bank transfer deposits from the students, some of whom were being offered the same accommodation.
“All bar one were students who had come to study in the UK; so English was their second language, and therefore there was a degree of vulnerability because he appeared to be bona fide.
“Some described him arriving in a white Bentley, giving the impression of being a successful businessman.”
Uppal, who had been given a conditional discharge for a fraud in 2014, made a total of £13,560 from his deception.
Judge Sylvia de Bertodano observed that that represented around £1,000 from each of his 13 victims.
After complaints to the police 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.
Mr Dhami added that Uppal will be subject to a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing following an investigation into his assets.
Christopher Jones, defending, said: “Whether the matter has to proceed to confiscation depends on Your Honour’s views about compensation, because we’re in a position to offer compensation fairly quickly.
“He accepts this crosses the custody threshold, but what might persuade Your Honour to follow the recommendation of a suspended sentence is that he’s got employment and has taken steps to deal with his gambling situation.”
Mr Jones said Uppal, who had worked for the estate agents for six months, now acts to recover stolen vehicles for car hire companies, for which he is paid on commission.
He has also been going to Gamblers Anonymous – but says they cannot provide him with confirmation of that because of the anonymous nature of the organisation.
Mr Jones added that, if the sentence was suspended, with help from his family Uppal could pay £1,000 in compensation within 14 days, a further £2,500 within 21 days after that, and the balance at £500 a month.
But jailing Uppal, Judge de Bertodano told him: ““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’ll be immediate.”