Help for Heroes conman who pocketed £300,000 in charity donations to face 'lengthy' jail sentence

Help for Heroes said it was "appalled" by Chris Copeland's actions

A man who tricked the public into donating £300,000 of pounds to the armed forces charity Help for Heroes, only to pocket the money himself, has been told by a judge he faces a “lengthy” prison sentence.

Over an 18-month period, 51-year-old Christopher Copeland sent teams of unwitting charity workers to gather donations at supermarkets across the country.

Accompanied by a vehicle from Copeland’s collection of ex-military vehicles decorated in Help for Heroes livery, his teams would attempt to encourage shoppers to put cash into charity buckets.

His workers would then hand the crash to Copeland, who would transfer the money into his personal bank accounts.

The scam took place between 1 February, 2010 and ended on 17 September 17, 2011, when Copeland was arrested after one of his worker became suspicious, Exeter Crown Court heard.

The workers, who were paid expenses, would stay in Copeland's vehicles or a nearby hotel and spend between three and four days a week collecting donations.

Christopher Copeland, 51, of mid Devon, outside Exeter Crown Court Christopher Copeland, 51, of mid Devon, outside Exeter Crown Court
Detective Chief Inspector Mike Robison, who spoke after the hearing, said: "We believed his motive was greed."

"It is a rare occurrence and one that we have taken seriously along with Help for Heroes and the Crown Prosecution Service to arrive at a successful outcome."

Copeland, from mid-Devon, admitted to one charge of fraud by false representation and a charge of concealing criminal property, relating to the stolen donations.

Speaking outside court, a tearful Copeland apologised for his behaviour and said he would use his "life's work" to pay the money back.

Read more: Donations surge crashes Help For Heroes website
Charity fraudsters use Help for Heroes’ to help themselves
Help for Heroes rejects all donations linked to EDL

"I tried to do something that was really good and I messed up," he said. “I am very sorry. I would really, really like to make amends. I am really sorry and I will do anything I can."

Judge Philip Wassall adjourned the case for pre-sentence reports on Monday. Copeland, who was released on bail, will be sentenced at Exeter Crown Court at 10am on 15 September.

"He will know that he faces a lengthy prison sentence," the judge said.

Representing Copeland, Rosaleen Collins said her client and his family had been subjected to "serious threats" since his arrest, and police had to fit an alarm in his property.

Jo Brookes, Help for Heroes' Income Protection Officer, described Copeland's actions as "calculated" and "devious".

"We're appalled that Chris Copeland exploited the goodwill of so many people towards our wounded men and women in such a calculated, devious way," she said.

"The money he stole never reached us, or the thousands of Heroes we support, because he used organised, criminal tactics to intercept it."

Additional reporting by PA

News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the Jurassic World trailer
film

Video: The official full-length trailer for the Jurassic Park sequel has dropped – two days early

Environment
The plant ‘Nepenthes zygon’ was donated to Kew in 2004
environmentNepenthes zygon had been growing for almost a decade and helping to keep down cockroaches
News
This artist impression shows a modern-day Atlantis
news
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer snapped celebrities for 40 years - but it wasn’t all fun and games
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital