AFTER months on the run, a former Cheltenham letting agent is finally behind bars.
Ryan Lee, who ran Panache Lettings in Bath Road, was jailed for six months after taking more than £13,000 from clients.
Sentencing him at Gloucester Crown Court, Judge Jamie Tabor QC said: "You left landlords without deposit money which could have been used to repair premises left in a poor state. Tenants, who paid deposits and expected them back, were also diddled by you.
"Your last victim could not even get into the flat that she had secured with a deposit to you."
Lee pleaded guilty to 11 charges under the Consumer Protection Regulations of engaging in unfair commercial practices. He also asked for two similar offences to be considered.
The charges, dated between February 2009 and June 2010, stated that being a trader he knowingly or recklessly engaged in commercial practices which contravened standards of professional diligence by making false representations to tenants. The false representations involved telling tenants that deposit money would be lodged into an approved deposit account.
The charges related to properties in roads including Mill Way, Squirrel Close, Bath Street, Hewlett Road, Great Norwood Street, Naunton Crescent, Montpellier Spa Road and Pittville Lawn.
Shortly before he was due to be sentenced for the offences last spring, he fled to Belgium and then to the Far East.
But last month, after running out of money, he decided to return to face the music and was arrested when he flew into Heathrow from Kuala Lumpur.
Simon Dent, prosecuting, said Lee would act as a middle man between tenant and landlord. He should then have put deposits and initial rents into a Government-organised account but failed to do so.
Having been arrested and bailed, he got involved with three other lettings agencies and committed similar offences.
Richard Tucker, defending, said the offences were regulatory and did not allege fraud or dishonesty.
But Judge Tabor told Lee that he felt, by the end of his offending, Lee was being dishonest.
Lee was also banned from being a company director for four years.