A “despicable” con man was jailed yesterday (Thursday), with a judge praising the Grantham Journal for its help in bringing him to justice.
Martin Heaver, 46, of London Road, Grantham, invented a terminally ill five-year-old girl whose “dying wish” was to meet Mickey Mouse so he could trick people into donating money, which he then pocketed himself.
To give his story authenticity, Heaver claimed he was an ex-paratrooper and even bought a red paratrooper
T-shirt and beret off eBay.
However, his story was branded a “web of lies” at Lincoln Crown Court.
Matthew Lowe, prosecuting, said: “There was no five-year-old girl who was terminally ill, no parachute jumps and the money ended up in his own pocket.”
Judge Sean Morris described Heaver’s acts as “despicable”. He added: “You conned people into believing you were raising money for a little girl to send her to Florida to see Mickey Mouse, presumably, before she passed away. I can’t think of anything as low as that.”
The judge went on to praise Journal photographer Toby Roberts and Grantham Amateur Boxing Club’s Dean Fardell for helping to expose the con man.
Toby and Dean became suspicious of Heaver and e-mailed him in an effort to “catch him out” - and they were successful.
Judge Morris said: “I think without their efforts this matter may not have been exposed.”
The judge added: “I would like to commend Mr Dean Fardell and Mr Toby Roberts for their work in bringing this man to justice and the court is very grateful to them.”
In sentencing Heaver to six months in prison, Judge Morris decried guidelines which limited the length of sentence he could impose.
He said: “The sentence will seem very low as I’m obliged to follow the guidelines.”
Judge Morris said the crime was made worse by the “impact on the wider community”.
He added: “Frauds such as these will make people sceptical about giving and in these hard times people need charities.”
Heaver claimed to be raising money for a five-year-old girl from Waltham on the Wolds in the Vale of Belvoir.
An estimated 100 people pledged money to the fictitious cause, with Heaver pocketing around £1,000.
Judge Morris said: “What you did in this case was despicable. The fraud involved you posing as a member of one of our most illustrious regiments.”
The court heard Heaver, who was described in court by his defence as a “Walter Mitty” character, had previously received a 14-week suspended prison sentence in 2004 for stealing £12,000 from his then employer, G4S.