Brixton flat deposit fraud man found guilty, but is not in court

James Bennett
James Bennett

A man who conned people looking for somewhere to live in Brixton out of thousands of pounds is being sought after he was convicted on 17 counts of fraud in his absence.

James Bennett, 32, of no fixed abode, was found guilty at Inner London Crown Court today (13 December).

A warrant for his arrest was issued after he failed to appear in court.

Between late 2015 and December 2016, Bennett posted many listings on the website, advertising rooms for rent at four separate properties in Brixton, Walworth, Elephant and Castle, and Tooting.

The court heard that he had obtained more than £10,000 by conning prospective tenants out of deposits for the flats.

In each case he had no permission to rent out the rooms advertised and was in the process of being evicted from the properties. In all 17 cases he took holding deposits of up to £725 each from people desperate for somewhere to live.

Bennett made no attempt to hide his identity and gave tenancy agreements to each victim. He also willingly provided copies of his passport and other documents to prove his identity to dupe his victims who had all made reasonable attempts to ensure that he was genuine.

Police said that many of the victims only found that they had been defrauded when they turned up on the agreed day to move in. In more than one case, the victim was left homeless. One had to spend Christmas in a hostel.

Bennett was arrested in November 2016 and, police say, at first denied the offences. When confronted with further evidence in May 2017, they say he made a full admission.

He was charged with 17 offences but, despite the admissions, pleaded not guilty at Camberwell Magistrates Court.

Bennett did not attend his trial at Inner London Crown Court on 11 December, but the case was heard in his absence.

He is due to be sentenced on Friday 15 December at the same court.

The court heard that Bennett has previous convictions for fraud and perverting the course of justice.

He is described as a very tall white man with ginger hair. He is around 6 foot 7 inches high and speaks with a slightly posh southern English accent. Police say he has connections to South East London and the Winchester area.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact DS Adam Clifton at Southwark CID on 07747 765719, on 101, or via Twitter @MetCC. To remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


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