A bogus charity collector could have defrauded Blackpool’s generous public of up to £20,000 as he plied for donations for the North West Air Ambulance.
Convincing fraudster Derek Snelson, 48, of Branstree Road, Mereside, armed himself with a yellow T-shirt and yellow bucket emblazoned with the charity’s logo and spent two years going around the resort’s pubs and clubs collecting for the lifesaving cause.
Kind hearted DJs around the town would even announce his presence over the loudspeaker as clubbers and punters put notes and pounds into the bucket.
But not a penny went to the charity, Preston Crown Court heard.
He is beginning a 12 month jail term after a judge said there would be “public abhorrence” if he were not to go to prison.
Prosecuting, David Traynor said Snelson was stopped in Queen Street at 10.30pm on May 28, by a trading standards officer .
He added: “To all intents and purposes he seemed to be a legitimate collector. The officer initially spoke to him in relation to his authorisation but was not happy with what was going on.
“Mr Snelson said he was collecting as an authorised collector and relied on a letter.
“The letter dates back to 2014 and is an authorisation to do a charity bike ride, nothing more than that.”
A probe found he had contacted the charity and had been “persistent” in efforts to get sponsor packs, security seals and identification but to date had received nothing.
Staff in pubs and bars told trading standards he had been collecting in the area for four years on Friday and Saturday nights.
He admitted fraud and possessing an article - a bucket - for use in a fraud.
Snelson sobbed in the dock as defending, Judith McCulloch, said: “In many ways it is the second count that makes this offence as serious as it is because he was using the bucket and that was the inducement.
“His remorse and his shame are genuine and these offences have been a salutary lesson for him.
“At the outset his intentions were honourable, he hoped to organise a sponsored cycle ride. His life was more stable then.
“His own life began to fall apart. He had been estranged from his family, and found both had died in 2014. He hadn’t been made aware and it had been his hope to rekindle the relationship with his family. He hadn’t been able to attend either funeral.
“He became depressed. Rather than seek help he turned to alcohol.”
Judge Mark Brown, the Honorary Recorder of Preston, refused to accept his claim he had only made £15 to £30 a night and called him “mean spirited”.
He added: “It is clear to me over about two and a half years you abused the kindness and generosity of the public.”