An estate agent took more than £200,000 from his tenants to pay for expensive foreign holidays before fleeing to Lincolnshire to start a new life.
Keith Ranson, 40, used rental deposits to pay for skiing trips and prop up his failing business R House, which he opened in Torpoint, near Cornwall, in 2005.
He collected deposits from tenants on behalf of landlords, which should have been left untouched in a protected account.
R House did well for two years, but in the autumn of 2007, income from the estate agency slumped by between £65,000 and £80,000.
Ranson was interviewed by police in August 2010, when he admitted to fraud by abuse of position between August 2007 and May 2010, taking a total of £210,177.50.
Shortly afterwards he moved to Lincolnshire, became branch manager of WH Brown, in Boston, and started a new relationship. He currently lives in Burgh le Marsh.
At his trial on Friday, January 11, Plymouth Crown Court also heard Ranson used the bank card of co-director Melanie Cairns and withdrew £40,000.
He then paid £15,000 off his credit card and spent the rest on a holiday in Europe.
Ranson has now been jailed for two years. Recorder Paul Derbyshire said he had taken the “easy way out” and turned to a life of crime when the recession hit his business.
He added: “You led the life of Riley and now you must pay.
“The recession started to bite and your income declined steeply. That was the situation faced by many thousands of people all over the country.
“But they did not turn to crime as you did. They battled through it, while you took the easy way out.”
Andrew Maitland, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said Ranson had become an estate agent for various businesses in the Plymouth area after leaving the RAF with an injury.
The court also heard it was impossible to estimate how much of the money Ranson had taken to prop up R House and how much he had spent for himself.
R House’s insurers have already paid out more than £106,000 to tenants who had lost their deposits and other claims are now being processed.
Jason Beal, representing Ranson, said that he had started the business legitimately, working hard for a modest salary, but that his client had panicked when his main source of income from house sales had slumped.