Duo suspected in children’s charity ‘scam’

Ricky Symeon
Ricky Symeon

Two men accused of making bogus charity collections on the streets of Blackpool are standing trial for fraud.

Ricky Symeon, 37, and Barry Buckley, 33, claimed to be collecting for the Make A Wish Foundation – to raise funds for terminally ill children – but in fact they were lining their own pockets, a court has heard.

Barry Buckley

Barry Buckley

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.

But an investigation by Trading Standards found the Make A Wish Foundation –which grants sick children’s wishes – had not received any of the money which had been collected.

Both men deny conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation at Preston Crown Court.

Opening the case, David Traynor, prosecuting, said: “These two men worked together to mislead members of the public into giving them money.”

We are not a charity but as a thank you for buying our booklet we donate money to several charities.

He read an excerpt from one of the booklets, which stated: “We travel throughout the UK and we enjoy the outdoor work. We like meeting people like you.

“We are not a charity but as a thank you for buying our booklet we donate money to several charities.”

In a statement read to the court, one woman said she was approached by a man who was later identified as Symeon, and asked if she had heard of Make A Wish Foundation.

The man claimed to be raising money to send a sick girl to Disneyland, the court heard.

Other witnesses were asked to donate around £3 each, however Buckley told one woman he had recently received a £25 donation and was going to put the sponsor on his Facebook page.

In February 2015 the Make A Wish Foundation became aware the men were collecting in their name and emailed Buckley, using the contact details given in the booklet, asking what was going on.

The charity did not get a reply and sent a follow up email asking him to stop, stating they had no record of Buckley collecting for them.

In August 2015 both men were quizzed by Trading Standards officials working for Blackpool Council.

Symeon, of Thornbank, Poulton, accepted he had been making collections for Make A Wish Foundation but insisted he had stopped in February 2015.

Any reference to the charity since then had been “a slip of the tongue”, he said.

He claimed he had donated 20 per cent of the purchase price of any booklets he had sold to Cancer Research, at collection tins in Tesco.

But enquiries revealed there were no Cancer Research tins in the supermarket at the relevant time.

Buckley, of Furness Avenue, Grange Park, told officers he had bought booklets from Symeon and that the full purchase price went to the seller.

He said the vendor would then make donations to charity but he had left that to Symeon.

Both men deny the allegation they conspired together to defraud the public.