Over 250 bags containing clothing donations for charity that were hijacked by a fraudster have now been delivered to the British Heart Foundation to raise cash for charity as the donors intended.
Following a joint investigation with Thames Valley Police (TVP) and West Berkshire Council’s Trading Standards service Dalius Valys (28) of 78a Strafford Road, Southampton, was sentenced to a 12 month community order with 200 hours unpaid work following a hearing at Reading Magistrates Court on 7 January. He was also ordered to pay costs £1500 to at a rate of £200 per month, starting this month plus a victim surcharge of £60. A Deprivation Order was also made for seized clothing.
The investigation arose when West Berkshire’s Trading Standards team were alerted to a charity bag collection taking place in the Greenham Area on 9 April 2015. The bags distributed indicated the collection was by textile recycling company Audosta Limited with a proportion of the proceeds being donated to a children’s Cancer Charity. However, this was not the case.
Valys was convicted of one count of fraud by false representation. In his defence he had claimed this was a mistake. In addition to the finding of guilt Mr Valys also entered a guilty plea at a previous hearing to one count of fraud under the House to House Collections Act 1939.
Checks with the council’s Licensing team revealed that there was no licence for the collection prompting Trading Standards and TVP officers and Thames Valley Police to confront Mr Valys who was in the process of collecting the bags telling him to stop as he had no licence.
However, later that day, police stopped Mr Valys on the A339 and discovered that he now had over 250 bags in his van.
Magistrates indicated that the offence had a number of seriously aggravating factors in that it was committed purely for personal gain and that both the householders and the charity were victims.
When sentencing, the District Judge stated that he accepted the Defendant was ‘ashamed’ of his actions, that he considered it a ‘nasty offence’ as he ‘took advantage of people’s generosity’.
Cllr Marcus Franks, West Berkshire’s Executive Member for Public Protection said, “I am delighted that these donations are now with the British Heart Foundation and will raise cash for charity as the donors intended. This was a cynical fraud as the donations were given in good faith by local people wanting to give to charity. This was another excellent outcome from joint working between Trading Standards and the Police who are working ever more closely to protect the local community and to send a clear message that this kind of crime will not be tolerated and that perpetrators will be prosecuted.”
Anyone who has concerns about the legitimacy of a charity collection in West Berkshire or Wokingham should contact the council’s licensing team on 01635 519184. For advice on Trading Standards matters please they should contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Line on 03454 04 05.