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Last Updated: Friday, 8 June 2007, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
Star 'shocked' at charity fraud
Joan Collins and Trevor England
Joan Collins and Trevor England were at the gala dinner in Wales
Joan Collins has spoken of her "shock and sadness" after a fraud was uncovered at a children's brain injury charity she was a patron of.

The former Dynasty actress helped raise funds and hosted a gala dinner for Swansea-based Catch.

It was founded by Trevor England, 60, of Carmarthenshire, and Mary Johnson, also 60, of Warrington.

Both were jailed at Manchester Crown Court after a judge heard they stole more than 500,000 from donations.

Ms Collins, who had no day-to-day involvement in the running of the charity, lent her name to its fundraising activities.

She said in a statement: "I'm shocked and saddened that a charity I believed was benefiting needy children could have been so badly abused."

The court heard in addition to stealing around 177,000 England, now of Glanaman, Carmarthenshire, cheated the tax office out of 650,000 through fraudulent gift aid payments.

He admitted two counts of theft and was jailed for six years.

Johnson, of Manchester Road, Rixton, who had denied two counts of theft of about 346,000 in cash, was jailed for seven years after being convicted by a jury last month.

Trevor England and Mary Johnson
Johnson was jailed for seven years and England for six

The Charity Commission launched a formal inquiry into the charity and reported that it appeared to exist primarily to support its employees.

In 2002, BBC Wales' current affiars programme Week in Week Out revealed that over a three year period an average of less than 20 pence in the pound of its income was spent directly on children.

Receivers were called in.

The crown court heard this week that around 800,000 in donations "simply could not be accounted for."

Judge Anthony Hammond said: "Kind people are only too willing to give money to charity, and even more willing when the charity is for children handicapped by brain damage.

"This charity was redolent with fraud and dishonesty."

Even though the charity was based at a Swansea business park, much of its fundraising was carried out by a company called Drawtreat, founded by Johnson.

It employed dozens of commission-paid tele-sales staff in Manchester, who would "cold call" people across the UK to persuade them to donate 35 to the charity.

Three of Johnson's family who helped run the office were also jailed.

The long investigation produced more than 20,000 pages of supporting evidence.

Steve Armitt of HM Revenue and Customs said: "This concludes a detailed and complex investigation into individuals and their businesses that clearly weren't paying the correct tax, were reclaiming tax rebates not due to them and misusing money donated for charitable purposes."


SEE ALSO
Two jailed for charity 'business'
07 Jun 07 |  Manchester
Brain charity under inquiry
05 Feb 02 |  Wales

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