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Judges show mercy to Marie Curie charity scam ringleader
5:44pm Friday 11th October 2013 in News
THE Hampshire ringleader of a gang behind a cruel scam to steal money more than £30,000 from dying cancer sufferers has had his sentence cut on appeal.
Gordon William Coe, 66, a former pub landlord from Southampton, forged Marie Curie Cancer Care badges and documents before mobilising a team to dupe charitable members of the public into handing over their cash in pubs and clubs across the south east.
Crafty Coe, of Mansell Road, was jailed for four years after admitting conspiracy to commit fraud and converting criminal property at Southampton Crown Court in July.
Judge Derwin Hope showed no mercy for the group he led who spent three years conning generous residents across the south of England out of money which they then used to buy things for themselves and enjoy lavish holidays.
But three of the country's most senior judges, sitting at London's Appeal Court have today upheld a challenge by Coe - cutting his jail term by a quarter, to three years, as an act of "mercy" in the light of his serious health problems.
Mr Justice Bean said Coe took on a role as a Marie Curie fundraiser before deploying his team of sham collectors between early 2008 and 2011.
He forged Marie Curie IDs, letters of authenticity and bogus collection testimonials and provided them to the gang, who gathered thousands in charity tins from unsuspecting donors.
His foot soldiers would return to Coe's home and divvy up the spoils, instead of passing them on to the charity. Coe paid less than £300 to charity despite pocketing £31,000, the appeal judge added.
The gang was ultimately rumbled after a genuine Marie Curie fundraiser came across one of the scammers in a Croydon pub and became suspicious in May, 2011.
After his arrest, Coe claimed his activities were legitimate and that he only deducted "reasonable expenses" for his petrol, before ultimately pleading guilty, the appeal judge added.
The sentencing judge rejected his plea that he had made only £600 from the scam, jailing him on the basis that he had defrauded the charity of "many, many thousands".
His co-defendants were also convicted, despite their protestations of innocence, receiving sentences of between 12 and 18 months.
On appeal, Coe's barrister, Richard Martin, said the fraudster accepted his behaviour was "despicable" but argued his health problems justified a softer punishment.
Coe has suffered from pneumonia, diabetes, lung and heart disease, chronic renal failure and had his leg amputated in October, 2012, Mr Justice Bean observed.
The judge, sitting with Lady Justice Rafferty and Mr Justice Jeremy Baker, said: "Had Coe been a younger man and the facts were otherwise exactly the same, we would have had no hesitation in upholding the sentence imposed by the judge.
"However, having regard to the fact he is a 66-year-old man indisputably in a poor state of health, we have concluded that it is appropriate to exercise a degree of mercy in his favour."
The judge quashed the four-year sentence and substituted a three-year term, of which Coe will serve half before qualifying for automatic release.
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