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Property manager who faked cladding safety forms gets suspended jail sentence after LBC investigation
28 September 2022, 17:25 | Updated: 28 September 2022, 17:31
A property manager who submitted fake building cladding safety forms has been given a suspended sentence.
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Thomas Clarke made £6,000 to fund his gambling addiction, by faking an ex-colleague's signature on crucial fire-safety documents.
Two years ago, LBC revealed that leaseholders in dozens of buildings across the country trapped by the post-Grenfell cladding crisis had been sold "forged" building safety forms.
EWS1 (External Wall System) forms were introduced after the Grenfell tragedy to access whether the high rise building with cladding was safe.
The forms were required by banks, who wouldn't supply a mortgage to any flat in a building without one.
In 2020, 33-year-old Thomas Clarke was contracted as a third party by Specialist Facade Inspections Ltd to survey buildings across the country.
But his membership of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors was "on hold", so he used the name of an ex-colleague, Sophie Magee, who had the right credentials, creating a fake email address for her and forging her signature.
She was horrified in June 2020 when residents of some of these buildings started to contact her, querying her credentials and work on the forms they had received.
In her victim personal statement, Ms Magee said she suffered "significant stress" as a result of Clarke's lies and had worked hard to build her reputation in the market.
He ended up signing off a total of 55 EWS1 forms in her name, and netted £6,000.
On Wednesday, Clarke, from Rainhill, Merseyside, received a 15-month custodial term, suspended for two years, after he pleaded guilty last month to fraud by false representation.
Sentencing him at Liverpool Crown Court, Recorder Andrew McLoughlin said: "The only reason you do not go to prison is that none of these forms were factually incorrect, so therefore the residents of these properties can at least be reassured."
All were rechecked to ensure they were compliant over fire risks, the court heard, but the judge said Clarke had shown "disdain" to those living in high-rise buildings.
He said: "It is a very important document because it gives confidence to the occupiers of those properties about the external wall systems."
Recorder McLoughlin told the defendant he had involved a "completely innocent member of the public" who had an "unblemished" 18-year career.
He said: "Because of underlying circumstances, a gambling addiction, you found yourself in this proverbial hole, spending more than you were actually earning, and you were in a very well-paid job.
"This was a sustained fraud with a significant degree of planning."
Michael O'Brien, defending, said: "He made the wrong decision at each and every turn. He offers no excuses for his behaviour."
SFI expressed their "relief" at the sentence, and gratitude at this being over.
They say they have learnt their lessons, and do "a lot of thing differently now."