'Near-bankrupt' Ingram walks free in fraud case

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The Independent Online

Charles Ingram, the former Army major who tried to cheat his way to the top prize on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? was given a two-year conditional discharge yesterday for insurance fraud.

Judge Samuel Wiggs said Ingram, 41, had already been severely punished because he had lost money and was on the brink of bankruptcy. The judge also ordered that Ingram should pay no court costs.

Bournemouth Crown Court was told that Ingram, from Easterton, Wiltshire, made a claim for a genuine burglary. But he had failed to tell Direct Line Insurance about claims he had made in the three years before he took the policy in July 2001.

Mr Ingram was found guilty on 28 October of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception and of a second charge of deception by attempting to claim on that policy.

Selva Ramasay, for the defence, said the case was an unusual fraud because Mr Ingram had lost money. "Most people think of insurance fraud as people making money but that simply is not the case here at all." He said Mr Ingram, his wife, Diana, and their three children had suffered over the past two years because of the adverse publicity over the Millionaire case and this case.

Mr Ingram was handed a suspended sentence for his part in the Millionaire fraud

Judge Wiggs said: "Well, he doesn't exactly shun publicity though does he? One only has to watch the television to know that."

Mr Ramasay said Mr Ingram had given all the profits from his tabloid interviews to charity and that he had only made money from the "recent and infamous" Celebrity Wife Swap programme with Jade Goody to support his family.

The family owed about £400,000 because of a civil action taken against the makers of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?

His barrister said Mr Ingram had been depressed and had trouble sleeping since his problems started and because of "hurtful" press reports.

He hoped people would see "another side of Charles Ingram", who is to run the London Marathon next year for charity.

Ingram's motor insurers had cancelled his policy the day after his latest conviction. He had great trouble in finding another, and when he did his premiums were doubled.

Judge Wiggs said he agreed with Mr Ramasay and added that he had considered imposing a community punishment order but there were concerns that Ingram would be bullied.

He said a heavy fine was also clearly out of the question and had little choice but to let Ingram leave the court with a conditional discharge. He said Ingram was a man in "financial dire straits" who should consider declaring himself bankrupt.

Afterwards, the former soldier said he felt "humbled" by the decision and said he was extremely grateful to Judge Wiggs. "I would like to think of this as the first day of the rest of our lives," he said.

Mrs Ingram said: "We're just relieved that we can go home and start rebuilding our family now."