A “SERIAL fraudster” who pocketed thousands of pounds in rent, fees and deposit money from unsuspecting house hunters has been spared a prison term.

Riccardo Iampietro admitted stealing more than £2,300 while working as a letting agent at Southampton firm, Homelife Lettings.

With a two-year suspended sentence for similar offences already hanging over him, the 28-year-old looked set for a prison term – even going as far as to bring a bag to court.

But appearing at Southampton Crown Court, the fraudster was spared jail, due to what Judge Nicholas Rowland described as a “frustrating” hold up in the legal system.

The court heard how Iampietro had appeared before a judge in April this year to plead guilty to two other offences, also related to fraud.

He was handed a two-year suspended sentence for pocketing payments for a Vauxhall while working as a car salesman in June last year.

Iampietro was also given another two-year suspended sentence for buying a Vauxhall Corsa on finance, only to switch the plates two days later and selling it on.

His most recent offence, for which he was sentenced, took place in November last year, during Iampietro’s two-week spell as a letting agent with Homelife.

The court heard how he would show clients around houses before taking a deposit, fees and an advanced rent from clients, looking for a place to rent.

But rather than give the money to his boss, Iampietro, of Woodford Close, Ringwood, would pocket the cash.

The court heard how the 28-year-old had been interviewed under caution for the offence.

But police did not inform the Crown Prosecution Service of the interview while it prepared its case against Iampietro for his other two offences.

A frustrated Judge Rowland said he “could not guess” if his colleague would have jailed Iampietro had he known about the extra offence.

Instead, Judge Rowland said he would have to judge the case on its own merit.

The judge heard that Iampietro suffered from a serious gambling addiction, which would lead him to steal but despite having 12 previous convictions had not committed any more offences since last November.

He had also re-paid the majority of the money stolen while working for Homelife Lettings – although the £2,315 he was being prosecuted for remained unpaid.

Judge Rowland imposed an 18-month suspended sentence, on top of his previous two-year sentence.

He said: “You are perhaps rather fortuitous to avoid a custodial sentence, but it is a double-edged sword.

“You now have a three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence hanging over your head.”

Iampietro will also have to complete 200 hours of community service.