Cambridgeshire man given suspended jail sentence for setting up fake charity shops

John Whitcombe claimed the shops were in aid of the NSPCC so that he could benefit from reduced business rates

John Whitcombe
John Whitcombe

A Cambridgeshire man who set up two fake charity shops has been given a suspended jail sentence.

John Whitcombe, of Lyons Court, Chatteris, set up and ran the shops, which he claimed were in aid of the NSPCC, between 2008 and 2009.

The scheme was uncovered by the authorities in 2009 after investigations by Fenland District Council into unpaid rates. Police later found incriminating paperwork connected to the fraud in his flat.

The 77-year-old father of 15 pleaded guilty to three charges of fraud at Cambridge Crown Court this week, including falsely claiming that he worked for a charity and making a false application for housing and council tax benefit on the grounds that he was a charity volunteer.

The court gave Whitcombe an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for one year, and a two-month curfew order.

Detective constable Mark Yendley of Cambridgeshire Police said in a statement that Whitcombe had deceived many people in the community with his "string of lies".

"Whitcombe collected donations at the two shops in March claiming he would give the money to charity, but instead pocketed the cash," he said.

"He lied so he could benefit from reduced business rates then, when he failed to pay those rates, produced a fake character reference from the chief constable in a bid to fob off the council debt collectors.

"We're pleased he has now been brought to justice."

Gwen Pearson, head of fundraising for the north London and east of England region of the NSPCC, said: "Anyone posing as an NSPCC volunteer and trying to cheat our supporters into giving them money is doing real harm to the reputation of our charity.

"Thankfully this type of fraud is very rare and we applaud the police for their swift action in this case."

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