AN award-winning mortgage adviser who carried out "a monstrous breach of trust" when he stole an entire kitchen including the sink from his clients has been jailed for nine months.
Darren Newton, 40, advised Andrew Milton and his wife Michelle, both 48, to give up their five-bedroom home at Lothian Way, Greylees, Sleaford, when it was in danger of being repossessed.
Then, while the couple were living in rented accommodation, Newton paid two tradesman, who knew nothing of the plan, to enter the house and strip the kitchen of appliances and units
They took kitchen goods, including an oven, a hob, utility room units and even the kitchen sink, knocking £15,000 off the value of the house.
Mr Milton noticed the kitchen had been stolen when he made one of his regular monthly checks on the property before it was sold and he went to police.
Officers arrested the former RAF serviceman Newton as he returned from a holiday in Abu Dhabi.
Lincoln Crown Court heard Newton has now been banned from operating by the Financial Conduct Authority and has been forced to sell his interest in his business. He now faces losing his home as the FCA decision leaves him without an income to service the £500,000 mortgage on his own large detached house.
Newton had advised home owners Andrew and Michelle Milton to hand him the keys and move out when they faced possession proceedings for mortgage arrears.
The adviser told the couple he would hand the keys in to the mortgage company Virgin Money and make arrangements for a smooth hand over to save them further debt from the legal costs of County Court action.
But instead he retained the keys and while the property was up for sale he arranged for workmen to remove the entire £6,400 kitchen including all the appliances together with a £400 gas fire.
But Mr Milton discovered what had happened and contacted police. Officers discovered that neighbours had recorded the registration number of the vehicle used by contractors to remove the kitchen and when they were traced they told how Newton had requested them to carry out the work.
The stolen kitchen and fire were found in the garage at Newton's home. It is believed he planned to install the items in his utility room.
Alistair Munt, prosecuting, told Lincoln Crown Court the removal of the items cut the value of the property from £265,000 to £250,000 and left the Miltons devastated.
Mr Munt said: "The defendant was a mortgage adviser. The Miltons got into some financial difficulties and went to the defendant for advice.
"He was aware of their dire straits and advised them to put the house up for sale. By May 2012 when it had not sold he advised them to move out and rent and hand the keys to him to surrender to the mortgage company so it could be voluntarily handed over."
Mr Munt said the couple retained a front door key and regularly checked the property only to discover in November that the kitchen had been removed with the oven, hob, units and kitchen sink missing along with a fireplace.
"Newton was asked about the matter and stated he knew nothing about it. He said he had passed the keys back to the building society within days of receiving them."
Newton later tried to persuade the Miltons to withdraw their complaint. During his subsequent trial he claimed that he had been given the couple's permission to remove the items.
Virgin Money told police that they never received the keys from Newton. The property has now been sold.
Newton, of Evedon, Lincolshire, denied theft but was convicted by magistrates at an earlier hearing. He was ordered to pay £6,800 compensation to his victims for the loss of the kitchen and a £500 fireplace.
Judge Sean Morris, passing sentence , told Newton: "You were the mortgage adviser to the victims in this case. You had a responsible job which involved giving legal and financial advice to them.
"What you did was to help yourself to the property in that house. You removed a very large and very expensive kitchen.
"You tried to persuade Mr Milton from pursuing the matter. It shows what a slippery customer you really are. A further demonstration of you being a slippery character is that you tried to lie your way out of it. There is such a monstrous breach of trust in this case that only an immediate custodial sentence can result."
The judge issued a plea that Virgin Money should not charge the Miltons for the legal costs involved in obtaining possession.
He said: "If anybody should be charged it is this defendant."
Sunil Khanna, defending, said Milton, a former RAF serviceman, was a highly regarded mortgage adviser whose business has been "decimated" by what he did.
"He has a mortgage of over £500,000 which he is going to have to service without any income.
"He tells me he cannot understand what went through his head. He thought there would be no victims in this case. The Miltons still owed in excess of £80,000 on the mortgage when the house was repossessed and he thought that this was a drop in the ocean."
Mr Milton said: "This has been so upsetting for myself and my wife but we've now got justice.
"He knew everything about our financial situation and all about our problems and then he did this to us. We were effectively called liars when we went to court to give evidence about what happened."