A man who stole nearly £1 million from childrens’ cancer charities, including one he set up to help his own son, was jailed for five years today.
Kevin Wright was convicted of ten counts of theft and two of fraud by false representation at an earlier hearing at Nottingham Crown Court.
Jurors heard significant sums of money were donated to the appeals Wright set up, but that little of the cash went towards treatment.
Instead the money was spent on covering the charity overheads and funding Wright’s “interests, investments and personal lifestyle”.
Sentencing the 50-year-old at Nottingham Crown Court, Judge Gregory Dickinson said: “I believe you have a genuine desire to help families in the same position – however that does not fully explain your actions.”
The judge added that most of the money went on running the appeals and to fund Wright’s lifestyle.
Mr Dickinson added: “You abused the generosity of the public. Your actions risked damaging the confidence in the system of charitable giving.”
The court heard that Wright set up a string of appeals following the success of charities established to help his own son, Bobby.
Wright set up Bobby’s Fund and The Bobby Wright Cancer Fighting Fund after his son, then aged three, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, neuroblastoma, in April 2005.
The money was to be used to treat Bobby at a specialist centre in the US but, when it was decided the youngster no longer needed treatment, Wright turned his attention to helping raise money for other children with cancer.
The judge said it was these appeals set up for Callum Kaye, Armani Mohammad and Jessica Magnus which were “fraudulent from the outset”.
Wright told the public the money raised would be used to treat the youngsters at a specialist centre in New York.
However none of the children was treated at the Sloane Kettering Memorial Cancer Centre and little of the money raised was spent on their treatment.
The judge said: “These appeals were a fraud on the public. They were fraudulent from the outset.”
He added that they were set up “in part to maintain your lifestyle and image”.
The court heard that Wright, formerly of Kenn, near Exeter, Devon, stole a total of £171,500 from the Bobby Wright Cancer Fighting Fund, including donations of £60,000 made by charities Caudwell Children and Janet Nash.
He also took more than £749,340.79 from the three appeals he set up to raise money for Callum, Armani and Jessica.
The bulk of the money was used to cover the running costs of the various appeals rather than on the children’s treatment, the court heard.
But some of the money went into Wright’s personal bank account.
The judge said: “I accept that you did help other children.
“But you were being generous with other people’s money given for a different cause.”
The court heard that it was “impossible” to say how much money exactly went into Wright’s bank account as he kept no accounts.
However, he used £30,000 of money donated to the Bobby Wright Cancer Fighting Fund to buy the Toad In The Hole restaurant in Exeter and invested £20,000 in a used car business.
Another £60,000 from the fund was put into Premium Bonds by Wright.
In mitigation, Nicolas Gerasimidis, defending Wright, said: “He is not the typical fraudster. This is not a case where he has enriched himself or lived a lavish lifestyle.
“His primary motivation was his desire to help other kids. Clearly temptation got in the way because of the sheer amounts of money involved.”
But judge Mr Dickenson said: “I do not for one second see him as some sort of latter-day Robin Hood.
“There was, in my opinion, a very considerable element here of personal benefit and self-promotion as well as benefit to other children.
“I will not accept any suggestion that all he was doing was trying to help other children”.
The judge said there was “something more selfish and arrogant” than that.
The court had heard that Wright had previous convictions, including for theft and forgery.
Today, the judge told him he would serve half of his five-year sentence before being released on licence. He also banned him from acting as a company director for seven years.
Wright’s 43-year-old wife, Jacqueline, was in court today for the sentencing.
She had also been charged with one count of converting criminal property but the charge was dismissed during the trial.