Two men have been cleared of allegations they made bogus charity collections on the streets of Blackpool.
Ricky Symeon, 37, of Thornbank, Poulton, and Barry Buckley, 33, of Furness Avenue, Grange Park, had denied conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation after it was alleged they had been “lining their own pockets” with cash they told people they were collecting for the Make A Wish Foundation – which raises funds for terminally ill children.
Between February 2015 and July 2015 the pair were regularly seen in Victoria Street and the surrounding area selling charity booklets containing jokes and puzzles.
Trading Standards had alleged the Make A Wish Foundation – which grants sick children’s wishes – had not received any of the money which had been collected.
But jurors at Preston Crown Court cleared both men of the charges, returning not guilty verdicts for each.
Now, Mr Symeon has spoken of his relief at being cleared – and of the anguishof the case.
It was very difficult, but thankfully a jury of 12 threw the case out
He said: “It has been a nightmare for me and for my family.
“I’ve received a lot of very abusive messages which is totally out of order.
“I have now proven in a court that I have given generously to charities.
“I had to prove in three days in court what I have given to charity.
“I’ve given to charities including ABF The Soldier’s Charity, Our Local Heroes, Help for Heroes, Cancer Research and I have donated wheelchairs to Claremont Community Centre, and more.
“I feel what I said in interview was misconstrued by the prosecutors.
“I said I’d donated to cancer charities and they assumed I’d spoken to the people collecting in Tesco, but I’d put money into their pots at the end of the customer service counter.
“And they said I’d told somone I was collecting for a sick child but what I’d been asked was what the Make A Wish Foundation does, which is send poorly children on holidays.
“It was very difficult to go through all of that, but thankfully a jury of 12 threw the case out.”