A BOGUS charity collector, who dressed as a Jammie Dodger while he claimed to be raising money for Help for Heroes, has been found guilty of fraud.
Paul Richardson organised a sham bucket collection at Haydock Park last summer, which raised £650, in order to keep the money himself, St Helens Magistrates’ Court was told.
The 52-year-old had persuaded two unsuspecting teenagers to accompany him to the racecourse last July, promising them a certificate from the charity, even though he hadn’t even registered with Help for Heroes to collect on their behalf.
The two army cadets were dressed in uniform and were told to station themselves close to the entrance, while he positioned himself at the other end of the course.
Richardson had mop buckets decorated with copies of Help for Heroes stickers and racegoers were more than happy to put their hands in their pockets.
Following a successful stint during the day, it was decided to return later, as the pop group Steps were performing.
Richardson collected around £150, with the children making up the rest.
The prosecution claimed it was a deliberate ploy, because he knew people would be more willing to give cash to them. Days later when the children still had not been paid, their grandfather raised questions and police got involved.
Richardson, from Lincoln Drive, Ashton-in-Makerfield admitted collecting on the day and giving the children £30 each as well as pocketing £30 for himself.
However, he denied keeping the rest of the money for himself, despite only registering with the charity soon after his motives were questioned.
Richardson claimed to have given the rest of the money to a former work colleague named John Robinson who had collected for Help for Heroes in the past.
But when questioned, Richardson said that he didn’t know where Robinson lived or his current whereabouts.
Under cross examination, he admitted: “I gave it (money) to the bloke, which I shouldn’t have done. He said he was registered and would pay it in. I didn’t because I thought he would do it.”
Prosecutor Miss Renshall said that John Robinson was a fictitious character, adding: “I suggest he didn’t even exist. You made him up to cover yourself.
“You keep saying you’re not that kind of man, but you admitted defrauding the charity £90. So you are that kind of man.”
Defence solicitor Andrew Stock described it as a “slightly unusual case”, adding: “The way he dealt with things is amateurish and stupid from start to finish. The only reason this case came to light was that the money promised to the children wasn’t forthcoming.”
Magistrates found Richardson guilty, but before passing sentence, asked for a pre-sentence report, telling him that they were keeping “all options open”.
Bryn Parry OBE, CEO and co-founder of Help for Heroes said: “That people choose to fraudulently and greedily take funds for their own use that are given generously by the British public and intended to support the wounded, is unforgivable.
“This undermines the thousands of generous and committed fundraisers across the UK who have enabled Help for Heroes to provide practical and direct support to the wounded.”