A conman who claimed he was raising money for injured servicemen has been jailed for three years after a court heard he pocketed more than £50,000 of charity donations from kind-hearted members of the public.
Marvin Trussell, 42, set up the fake charity Army of Heroes, claiming to collect money for soldiers returning from battle with injuries and PTSD.
But jailing him at Preston Crown Court, Judge James Adkin described the scam as a “mean, exploitative offence” adding: “You took advantage of the good nature of people who wanted to help servicemen.”
Not one penny of the money raised went towards helping injured soldiers.
Charity collectors working for Trussell were kitted out with fleeces and collection tins, bearing the Army of Heroes logo - a Union Jack with a soldier silhouetted against it.
They went out on the streets on Blackpool, Liverpool and Preston to sell wristbands to members of the public, at £2 to £3 a time.
One collector said he was making around £500 a week from selling the camouflage patterned wristbands on behalf of Army of Heroes.
But Judge James Adkin, sentencing at Preston Crown Court, said: “The organisation was entirely dishonest. You never kept a single record and there has never been any contact with any charity.
“You never had any intention that the money would go to those with life-changing injuries as a result of serving in the armed forces.”
Trussell, of Glen Eldon Road, St Annes, denied participating in a fraudulent business between March 2014 and January 2015 but was convicted after just 20 minutes’ deliberation by the jury.
On the first day of his trial he was spotted rattling a collection tin outside the Sea Life Centre in Blackpool, breaking his bail conditions, and had been remanded in custody ever since.
During the trial David Traynor, prosecuting, told the court how Trussell was caught out by Trading Standards officers in Blackpool and Liverpool who quizzed him about the enterprise.
Trussell claimed he intended to register Army of Heroes as a charity or Community Interest Company (CIC) but had not completed the application process.
He submitted four separate CIC applications, but Judge Adkin said this was a “cunning” move, as they were destined to fail without any records to support the application.
The Army of Heroes website claimed CIC status was ‘pending’, further adding to the impression it was a legitimate charity. It stated: “Army of Heroes was created to help injured service men and women and their families by providing support to those with life changing injuries and illnesses and also to provide psychological aftercare.
“Please show your support to our cause in any way possible.”
Russell Davis, defending, said Trussell had previously been commended by Merseyside Police for the dignity he and his family had shown during the investigation into the murder of his sister, Maxine Showers, in Liverpool last year.
He handed the judge a letter which he said demonstrated a different side to the conman’s character.
The judge accepted the mitigation but said the scam was deliberate and mean, and banned Trussell from being a company director for seven years.