Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

They Said They Were Helping Heroes - They Just Helped Themselves; Gang Jailed for Charity Scam

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

They Said They Were Helping Heroes - They Just Helped Themselves; Gang Jailed for Charity Scam

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Glover

FRAUDSTERS who posed as charity collectors raising money for wounded war heroes outside St James' Park and the Stadium of Light have been jailed for a total of six years.

The gang, which was led by a "naive" mother-of-three from the North East, could have made up to pounds 45,000 from the scam, according to police estimates.

Natalie Hornby, 39, from Middlesbrough, her husband Robert, 41, plus three women from the Manchester area, claimed to be collecting for Help for Heroes outside football matches, at a railway station and in pubs over a three-month period.

Their scam was yesterday described as a "scandal and a disgrace" by Judge Brian Forster at Newcastle Crown Court.

Natalie Hornby registered with Help for Heroes in November 2009, supposedly to arrange a charity five-a-side football match which never took place.

The charity sent her collection tins, T-shirts and medal stickers which the court heard were then used to con the public into donating money.

During Natalie Hornby's trial a jury heard she made a false identification badge. When her home in Railway Cottages, Nunthorpe, was searched police found evidence she "was in financial difficulty and spending a lot of money," prosecutor Michael Hodson said.

A final demand for a utility bill was found along with receipts for a pounds 1,520 item of Barker & Stonehouse furniture and a pounds 1,588 holiday to Ibiza.

The court heard that the gang had accepted donations from bar staff, police and railway station attendants. Barmaids at the Strawberry pub in Newcastle handed over their tips, believing they were supporting the charity.

As well as targeting fans at St James' Park and the Stadium of Light, the gang also collected at Manchester Victoria railway station when high-profile concerts were taking place at the adjoining Manchester Evening News arena and other football grounds including those of Manchester City, Everton and Wigan.

Natalie Hornby eventually reported the other women to the police after a supposed quibble over how the money was shared out and arrests were made on the day of a Newcastle United home game against Preston on February 20, 2010. …

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