Conman with ‘monstrous ego’ who swindled Honiton shoppers with bogus charity collections jailed
- Credit: Archant
A conman who swindled shoppers out of tens of thousands of pounds with bogus charity collections has been jailed.
Jamie Monteiro sent teams of collectors with buckets to towns and cities all over the West Country – including Honiton - pretending to be raising cash for children or the homeless.
He was jailed for four and a half years after he was branded as ‘saturated in dishonesty’ and arrogant by a Judge, who said his operation amounted to ‘camouflaged begging’.
His bogus collections also damaged real charities by undermining the public’s faith in street collections and diverting money which would otherwise have been paid to genuine good causes.
Monteiro started his scam with a ‘back to work’ grant and then recruited teams of unemployed youths to go out with collection buckets in town and city centres all over Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.
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He started his crooked operation in Newton Abbot but when the authorities tried to stop him, he moved his team of collectors to town all over the region.
Police and council officials spotted his teams operating in Exmouth, Torbay, Exeter, Plymouth, Teignmouth, Dawlish, Dartmouth, Totnes, Barnstaple, and Honiton.
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In Cornwall he ran collections in St Austell, Camborne, Falmouth, Truro and Penzance and he also sent a team to Morrisons in Taunton.
The collectors carried buckets and claimed to be raising cash for bogus charities with names like Save a Heart and Kids at Christmas, and Hungry and Homeless Kids.
His teams also used the names of real charities including Shelter, Great Ormond Street Hospital, the British Legion, and Meningitis Help.
Former burger bar worker and petty criminal Monteiro thought he had found a way round the strict laws that control public collections and claimed that his bucket-shakers were selling pamphlets rather than seeking donations.
He insisted his company Youth Recruit Ltd was operating like a local version of the Big Issue, providing work for the so-called street vendors who kept half of their takings.
He described the collecting buckets as ‘street tills’ and claimed his half share was for accounting services, marketing and management. He made at least £44,000 from the scam although the true figure is thought to be much higher.
One of his collectors told police the scam had made £500,000 but this is thought to be a boastful exaggeration.
Monteiro used the registered number of a youth charity from Paignton on his letterhead but in reality all the money was going to him and his ‘workers’.
Monteiro started Youth Recruit in 2013 but his frauds took place in 2014 and 2015. At the height of the scam he was conducting street collections on an almost daily basis, often attracting the attention of police or council officials.
Monteiro, aged 27, of Oaklands Road, Newton Abbot, denied five counts of fraud but was found guilty and jailed for four and a half years by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court.
His right hand man Jordan Fletcher, aged 24, of Bladon Close, Newton Abbot, admitted three counts of fraud and was jailed for eight months.
The Judge told Monteiro: “Street collections are a very important source of income for genuine charities. They depend on the ready willingness of the public to trust that they are genuine.
“Your operation was never really about raising money legitimately for the homeless. You operated fraudulently for your own benefit by hoodwinking well intentioned members of the public into thinking making they were making a genuine contribution to charity.
“As the money from the public flowed in you moved on to High Streets throughout Devon and Cornwall, keeping records of which places were most lucrative.
“Your scheme was entirely false and dishonest from the start. Every night you split the money 50/50 in a sordid counting out in a grubby and dishonest scene.
“This was well organised and camouflaged begging. There was a thin veneer or legitimacy.
“You are a man saturated in dishonesty. You would doubtless argue black was white if it suited you. You are a remarkably arrogant man but not as clever as you think you are. You have a rather monstrous ego.
“This was a sophisticated offence involving significant planning carried out over a sustained period of 18 months. You involved others as collectors, and it must be born in mind some of them were homeless and vulnerable.
“There were many victims. Most only gave a few coins but cumulatively there were a very large number. It was foreseeable that your fraud, carried out so visibly on the streets over such a long period, would undermine trust in genuine charities.”
During the trial Monteiro’s operation was said to be ‘a con and a scam’ and the collections were designed to make donors believe they were giving to charity.
Monteiro told the jury nobody was deceived and that he was providing employment for young people through the legitimate sale of periodicals. He denied ever claiming to be raising cash for charity.
Fletcher said he took part at a time when he was living from hand to mouth. He has turned his life around in the three years since 2015 and now runs his own business fitting playground equipment.