A former solider was jailed for five years today (Monday, June 22) for his part in sophisticated property frauds in St Albans and Houghton Regis.
Paul Jones, 36, who had served in Northern Ireland and Afghanistan, impersonated a homeowner and a tenant in the sale of two homes that did not belong to him.
Jones, of Brookes Road, Flitwick, appeared for sentence at Luton Crown Court today having earlier pleaded guilty to three charges of fraud.
Prosecutor Laura Blackband described the frauds as “sophisticated and long-standing.”
In August 2017 Jones pretended to be a tenant when a potential buyer was being shown around a home in Drakes Drive, St Albans. The house was on the market on Zoopla for £250,000 – substantially below the market value, said Ms Blackband.
A neighbour contacted the owner who told her that the house was not for sale and the police were contacted. The court heard that no money was lost in St Albans.
However, money was lost in Jones’ first offence in March 2017 on a property in Douglas Crescent, Houghton Regis which had been left to a man when his parents died. Although it was worth £240,000 it was marketed online cheaply for £180,000 and sold to a man in March 2017.
Jones had changed his name to that of the owner’s by deed poll and the proceeds of the sale went into his bank account. The fraud came to light when the new owner went to collect the keys.
£161,000 of the sale was transferred to gold bullion brokers and the remainder was quickly spent on hotels and food.
The person who previously owned the Houghton Regis home, who had wanted to leave it to his children, was over £20,000 out of pocket. The new owner has lost £10,000 in legal fees.
In a basis of plea Jones, who left the army in 2006, accepted he allowed his bank account to be used by others and that he posed as the tenant in Drakes Drive.
He had eight convictions for 22 previous offences.
Defending, Derek Johashen, said Jones was taken advantage of by others who were running the fraud. He said he had been £3,000 in debt to drug dealers.
He said Jones, who had been carrying out manual work and had a child, expressed “true remorse.”
Jailing him, Judge Lynn Tayton QC said he had been guilty of a “sophisticated level of offending.”