Mansfield people conned by former soldier in Help for Heroes scam

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A former soldier who claimed to be collecting cash for the Help for Heroes charity raked in £600 with a door-to-door sponsorship scam.

A jail sentence hangs over Simon Carline who duped donors by showing them an army photo identity card he should have returned to the forces.

Carline - discharged from the army in 2009 on medical grounds - conned familes in the Mansfield, Chesterfield and Derby areas.

He targeted wealthier residential areas in a bid to raise more cash and altered figures on donations lists to pressure people into giving more generously.

Police were alerted and Carline initially claimed the fund-raising venture had been organised by him and other army colleagues, though he could not name them.

“He said he put the money into his own bank account and then transferred it across to Help for Heroes,” Becky Mahon, prosecuting told Chesterfield magistrates.

But he later confessed to downloading sponsorship forms from the charity’s website with no intention of handing over any cash to it.

Carline, of Park Road, Chesterfield, appeared before the court on his 21st birthday and admitted fraud by purporting to be a registered charity collector and fraudulently possessing a British Army ID card. The offences took place at Holymoorside between 25th July and 7th August.

District Judge Andrew Davison jailed him for 24 weeks but suspended the sentence for a year. Carline was also ordered to do 200 hours unpaid work and pay £600 compensation to the charity, with £85 costs.

“It was a confidence breach using an ID card that wasn’t yours to use. You were preying on the good nature of the unsuspecting public to support brave members of the armed forces and you used subtle pressure to get them to contribute more,” Mr Davison told him.

Probation officer Gerry Starnes told the court: “He says he had debts of £3000. He had lost his employment and was on benefit and he was struggling. He visited the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and Law Centre for help and advice but this wasn’t beneficial and he resorted to crime.

“He says he realises people are going to be disgusted by the offence and he would like to apologise to every victim.”

Carline’s solicitor, Annette Thomas, said he had no previous convictions. She added: “He is ashamed. He feels remorseful and he is heartbroken by what he has done. Half of his debt is rent arrears and he faces eviction on 1st December.”

The court was told that Carline worked for the Co-Op after leaving the army but lost his job last December. He then worked for Sports Direct in Shirebrook but he was not retained and, after a spell on benefit, he had found a job as a packer.