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

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