A GANG tried to defraud a charity that cares for terminal cancer patients as well as trying to hide financial transactions.

They were found guilty today following an 18-month investigation into men and women who purported to be genuine collectors for the Marie Curie Cancer Care charity.

Benjamin Chapman, 43, of Pennine Road, Southampton, was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud. His wife, Kim Chapman, of the same address, was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud and concealing financial transactions.

Pauline Hunt, 55, of Old Redbridge Road, Southampton, was convicted of concealing financial transactions.

Her husband, Raymond Hunt, 56, of the same address, was acquitted on charges of conspiracy to defraud and concealing financial transactions.

Also found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and concealing financial transactions was Susan Christians, 64, of Drapers Copse, Dibden.

A sixth defendant, Gordon Coe, 65, of Mansel Road East, Southampton, pleaded guilty earlier to conspiracy to defraud and concealing financial transactions.

Lyndhurst Detective Constable Giulio Pizzo, the officer in the case, welcomed the guilty verdicts.

“This is good news for the charity. Hopefully, the convictions will deter people who might try the same deceptions.

“But it is truly unfortunate that this sort of crime not only deprives genuine charities of much needed funds, but generates mistrust among the public towards real charity collectors,” DC Pizzo said.

“It is pleasing to see these convictions after all the hard work from police officers and the unlimited co-operation we got from staff at Marie Curie Cancer Care,” he said.

A spokesperson from Marie Curie Cancer Care, said: “We welcome the verdict that’s been reached. We would like to reassure people that this type of incident is extremely rare, and we shouldn’t let one bad apple give legitimate charity collectors a bad name.

“The vast majority of collectors are trustworthy and dedicated and, as a charity, we couldn’t raise the vital funds we need without them.

“Over the next few weeks there will be thousands of volunteer collectors supporting Marie Curie Cancer Care’s Great Daffodil Appeal, helping to collect the generous donations that enable Marie Curie Nurses to provide free care to people with terminal illnesses in their own homes and in the charity’s hospices.

“If anyone is ever in any doubt about a particular charity collector, they should ring the charity directly.”

The men and women that have been found guilty will be sentenced on April 5 at Southampton Crown Court.