Conman poses as landlord to sell luxury home for £1.4m

Conman poses as landlord to sell luxury home for £1.4m




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By Dawn Murden

A tenant renting a town house in one of Britain’s most expensive neighbourhoods, pretended to be the owner and sold it for £1.47 million, a court heard last week.
Steven Rice, 43, moved into the luxury home on Donne Place, South Kensington, using the false name of Stuart Knight.
Mr Rice – who owns a yacht company – posed as 83-year-old property owner Vernon Stratton, to put the 3 storey house in South West London on the market and sold it for millions.
The £1.4 million home
The conman was caught at a Halifax branch on the 15th of March this year, when he was trying to transfer the cash to Dubai.
The 44-year-old from Basingstoke, in Hampshire, had set up a fraudulent account with Halifax in the landlord’s name, to pay in the money, and staff became suspicious when Mr Rice presented them with a fake driving licence in Mr Stratton’s name. 
Daniel Burgess, Managing Director of Discount Lettings, who is also a landlord himself, said he was shocked by the ‘one in a million’ case and hopes it doesn’t signal a trend.
“I’ve been in the property business for 10 years and I’ve never come across a case like this.
“It’s terrible, Mr Rice must have had a lot of front to convince solicitors on both the vender side and the purchase side, to eventually gain deeds to the house.
“You hear about tenants sub-letting homes without permission, but this is a completely different ball game, and I wonder what happened to the purchaser.”
Donne Place, South Kensington
He warned that landlords should regularly inspect properties that they're letting out, and never leave personal documents in the homes with tenants.
The conman was also found to have rented a second house in Kensington under a false name, securing a loan for £489,235 but the money transfer was cancelled.
In October he attempted to secure a loan of £4 million on a house in Knightsbridge, also in central London. 
At Southwark Crown court last week, the yacht firm owner denied charges of fraud and possessing an article for use in fraud, but admitted to possessing a false ID document with intent and acquiring property illegally.
Mr Rice has been remanded in custody until sentencing which will take place on August 26th 2010.  

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