Pudsey scammers: Fraudsters who pretended to collect donations for Children In Need jailed after pocketing funds

David Levi led a group of scammers who pretended to collect donations for Children In Need and other charities before pocketing most of the money for themselves. Picture: Lancashire PoliceDavid Levi led a group of scammers who pretended to collect donations for Children In Need and other charities before pocketing most of the money for themselves. Picture: Lancashire Police
David Levi led a group of scammers who pretended to collect donations for Children In Need and other charities before pocketing most of the money for themselves. Picture: Lancashire Police | Lancashire Police
David Levi and a group of scammers pretended to collect donations for Children in Need but kept most of the money for themselves

A group of scammers who pretended to raise money for charity and pocketed £500,000 for themselves has been jailed. David Levi, 47, led a the group, who pretended to collect for charities including Children In Need, Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, The Children’s Society, The Christie Charitable Fund and Mind.

The fraudster contacted the charities to ask for permission to collect on their behalf and use their logo while fundraising, with the charities unaware that the fundraising attempt was bogus. Stalls and bucket collections were set up at supermarkets to dupe the public into believing their donations were going to charity. The group also created their own fake ID badges, decorated stalls in banners and dressed up in costumes, including Pudsey the Bear.

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Levi and his accomplices would often gain access to supermarkets by claiming that they had permission from head office or managers and would often threaten to report employees or go to national press outlets if they were not granted permission. Less than 10% of the £500,000 collected went to the charities in question. The funds were traced through the scammers' bank accounts.

Judge Andrew Jefferies KC said that the true amount pocketed by the gang was unknown. He added that some cash deposits were made to the charities when Lancashire Police started making inquiries in May 2017 following a report to Action Fraud by Children In Need.

The judge said: “This was a massive breach of trust. You all exploited the public goodwill and, in some cases, private grief. It was a duel deceit to the public detriment and in undermining public confidence. The British public is always relied upon to give generously to charitable causes and they do so even when they may not have much themselves.”

Levi was jailed for five years during his sentencing on Thursday December 21, which came after he admitted to his charges. He will also be subject to a five-year serious crime prevention order after he is released.

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William Ormand, 64, of London Road, Blackpool was jailed for three years and four months after being convicted of fraud and money laundering. He would often move into the leader role in the group.

Roy Ferguson, 63, of Park Road, Blackpool, received a two-year sentence, while Howard Collins, 73, of Laburnum Street, Blackpool, received a 28-month term. Martin Ebanks, 60, of Oakley Drive, Oldham, and Stephen Chesterman, 63, of Eversley Road, Benfleet, were both jailed for 18 months and 22 months respectively and Kaysha Beck, 31, of St David’s Road South, Lytham, who provided office support for the fraudsters, was jailed for 18 months.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Riley said: “When people donate to a charity they rightly expect that their money will go to supporting good causes and not to lining the pockets of greedy conmen like David Levi and his gang. They have exploited peoples’ goodwill and honesty to the tune of thousands of pounds, and I’m pleased that we have been able to bring them to justice.”