A fake charity conman claimed to be helping injured Army heroes – but was lining his own pockets with generous public donations.
Marvin Trussell, 42, was convicted of fraud after setting up the bogus ‘Army of Heroes’ charity which collected on the streets of Manchester, Liverpool and Blackpool.
Street collectors working for Trussell claimed they were supporting soldiers with PTSD and physical injuries on their return from conflict zones.
They were kitted out hoodies bearing the Army of Heroes logo – a Union flag with a soldier silhouetted against it – and given camouflage wristbands to sell at £2 - £3 a time.
Red, white and blue collection tins, also carrying the logo, were distributed around shops and businesses and given to street collectors to gather funds.
But during a trial at Preston Crown Court, Trussell admitted he had never made contact with the Ministry of Defence at any point since setting up the fund in 2013, and had not handed over a penny to wounded military heroes.
I dread to think how many people gave money in good faith thinking that they were helping injured servicemen and women
He was unable to produce accounts or explain how much had been raised – or what had happened to the cash.
One street collector told the court he raised around £500 per week collecting for Army of Heroes.
The jury took just 20 minutes to unanimously find the conman guilty of fraudulently raising money for Army of Heroes by falsely representing it would assist injured Army personnel.
David Traynor, prosecuting, said: “There was a clear picture being given to members of the public engaged in any of these collection streams that this is a collection to help injured servicemen or women.
“This was not a legitimate business.
“This was a business set up for a fraudulent purpose to raise money from members of the public, with a misrepresentation being made to members of the public that it was to assist injured servicemen and women.”
An Army of Heroes website urged people to organise fundraising events or contribute to the fund through an online payment system, stating ‘Army of Heroes was created to help injured servicemen 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.’
Trussell, of Glen Eldon Road, St Annes, denied the business was set up fraudulently and claimed any failings in the running of the business were down to a lack of business knowledge on his part.
When questioned by Trading Standards officials he was unable to account for the proceeds of any collections, claiming he had reinvested the cash in buying more wristbands to sell.
On the first day of the trial, Trussell was spotted with a collection tin outside the Sea Life Centre in Blackpool, despite bail conditions that he must not enter the resort.
He was remanded in custody for the remainder of the trial and has been warned to expect a prison sentence when he returns to face sentence.
Coun Gillian Campbell, Deputy Leader of Blackpool Council, said: “Blackpool has a long and proud history of supporting the Armed Forces so I am not surprised that people were happy to donate to this apparent good cause.
“I dread to think how many people gave money in good faith thinking that they were helping injured servicemen and women.
“I am glad that we have managed to successfully prosecute Mr Trussell and stop him exploiting the good nature of the people of the North West any further.
“It is a despicable crime, the lowest of the low.”