Three convicted of £500,000 charity fraud

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The Independent Online

Three Congolese immigrants were convicted today of conning a host of high profile charities out of more than £500,000.

Kitumbula Mazambi, 44, Mapendo Kasiba, 40, and Kyalemaninwa Mazambi, 32, "cynically" tricked The Big Lottery Fund, BBC Children In Need and Comic Relief into funding a string of spurious projects, Scotland Yard said.

Instead of using the money for charitable purposes, they used it for their own means, Isleworth Crown Court heard.

The trio were found guilty of conspiring to steal from grant-giving bodies and charities by making fraudulent applications for funding following a seven-week trial.

Detective Constable Roger Boydell-Smith, who led police investigations at Scotland Yard, said: "These individuals cynically betrayed their positions of trust by systematically stealing charitable funds raised in good faith by members of the public.

"Money that should have helped those in need was used instead for their own activities."

A joint statement issued on behalf of Big Lottery Fund, Children In Need and Comic Relief said: "This determined group of criminals operated a sophisticated web of deception targeted on defrauding UK funders of charities at the expense of the public who provide these funds."

Kitumbula Mazambi, a biology graduate who arrived in Britain in the mid 1990s, masterminded the fraud, the court heard.

After becoming aware of the wealth of small grants available from charities, he soon discovered a method of avoiding justifying how the funds were spent.

Working alongside his co-defendants, Kitumbula Mazambi created numerous differently constituted bodies to maximise the grants that they could obtain.

The fraudsters were eventually caught when a grants officer from the Big Lottery Fund noticed suspicious similarities between a number of different grant applications in August 2004.

Kyalemaninwa Mazambi, of Winsford Road, Coventry, and Kitumbula Mazambi, of Tewkesbury Close, Tottenham, north London, were remanded in custody. Mapendo Kasiba, of Tewkesbury Close, Tottenham, was released on conditional bail.

All three will appear at Isleworth Crown Court for pre-sentence reports on September 17.