News, Culture & Society

London man who made £10k from fake SpareRoom posts on run

  • James Bennett posted 17 fake listings online for rooms across south London 
  • He took £725 in deposits and willingly gave victims his details to get the cash
  • 32-year-old was tried in his absence and jailed for six years but is still at large 

A ‘posh’ SpareRoom fraudster is on the run after he made over £10,000 from fake room listings and never turned up to court.

James Bennett, 32, took up to £725 in deposits after posting over a dozen times advertising rooms across London on that he had no right to let out.

He made over £10,000 from the scam, which saw one of his victims forced to spend last Christmas in a hostel and another made homeless.

A week ago his trial began at the Inner London Crown Court – but had to go on without him after he failed to show.

Two days later he was convicted of two counts of fraud, for which he was sentenced to a total of six years in prison on Friday.

James Bennett (pictured), 32, took up to £725 in deposits after posting over a dozen times advertising rooms across London on that he had no right to let out

Police say a warrant has been sent out for his arrest and are appealing to members of the public to help find him. 

HOW DOES SPAREROOM WORK? is one of the leading websites for flat shares in the UK.

Users can browse available rooms in their area or post an advert for their room in the hope of finding a new flatmate.

The website is free to use but has a paid-for ‘early bird’ option that allows users to contact people as soon as adverts are posted, as opposed to waiting seven days with a standard account.

The website claims someone in the UK ‘finds a flatmate every three minutes’ as a result of ads posted with them. 

Bennett was arrested in November 2016 and initially denied the offences but when confronted with further evidence in May he admitted his crimes.  

Between late 2015 and December last year he made 17 listings on advertising rooms for rent at properties in Brixton, Walworth, Elephant and Castle and Tooting, south London.  

When conning his victims, he made no attempt to hide his identity and willingly provided copies of his passport and other documents to win them over.

The court heard that Bennett has a long history of offending, including previous convictions for fraud offences and perverting the course of justice. 

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: ‘Bennett remains outstanding and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. 

‘He is described as a very tall white man with ginger hair; he is around 6ft 7ins in height.

‘He speaks with a slightly ‘posh’ southern English accent, and is known to have connections to south-east London and the Winchester, Plymouth and Bedford areas.’