Angela Colleen Treneer (known as Colleen), of Cogos Park had pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud by abuse of position, while Elizabeth Ann Treneer (known as Ann), from Chapel Meadow, admitted two counts of participating in a fraudulent business as well as a count of perverting the course of justice.
The pair had run Premier Property Management in Truro together for years, and according to prosecutors began defrauding victims in 2009 by pocketing rent money and deposits from at least 40 victims.
According to CornwallLive, prosecutor Alexander Greenwood stated: “Monies which should have been used to pay the assorted creditors were transferred from designated business accounts into the defendant’s personal bank accounts and spent.
“In order to maintain the merry go round, funds from one property and landlord would be used to pay another.”
When the Treneers were challenged about the missing payments, they had a host of ready-made excuses, from accountancy problems to computer systems failures, to the point that “deceit became second nature” according to Greenwood.
Cornwall Council trading standards began an investigation into the business in December 2016 following a host of complaints.
Judge Linford said the fraud was “dishonesty on an industrial scale”, which involved “exploiting some of the more vulnerable in society”.
“When the game was up, you both lied and lied in an attempt to squirm out of responsibility, to put investigators off the scent. You twisted, squirmed, lied and put the blame on others,” he concluded.
Ann was sentenced to three years and four months in prison, while her mother was jailed for one year and eight months. Both will need to serve half before they are eligible for release.
Applications have been made to retrieve the stolen money via the Proceeds of Crime Act, while Ann’s defence lawyer said she hoped to be able to repay at least some of the money.