Lee Rigby: Fundraiser Gary Gardner jailed for fraud
A fundraiser has been jailed for two and a half years after pocketing cash collected for the young son of murdered soldier Lee Rigby.
Gary Gardner, 56, of Medbourne, raised about £24,000 but only £4,000 made its way to any charity, a court heard.
Leicester Crown Court was told Gardner put on three truck-pull events attended by thousands, including Fusilier Rigby's widow Rebecca and son Jack.
He was convicted of two counts of fraud at Leicester Crown Court on Thursday.
The court was told Gardner, a lorry driver, put on the truck-pull events in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in the Leicestershire villages of Medbourne and Market Harborough, and at Stroud in Gloucestershire, which Mrs Rigby and Jack attended.
He also spent £5,000 on producing and promoting a music single which only raised £200 and he knew would "flop".
Gardner, who has previous convictions for theft and fraud dating back to 1980 and 1995, said it failed because of "atrocious weather" at the launch event in London's Trafalgar Square in February 2014.
The jury were told he used some of the charity funds to "prop up" his overdrawn bank account.
He claimed he wanted to raise money for Jack and causes linked to Medbourne village shortly after Fusilier Rigby was killed outside Woolwich Barracks in south-east London five years ago.
However, Mrs Rigby told the court she and her son had "never received a penny from him."
In a victim impact statement, Mrs Rigby added she was "disgusted" at Gardner's actions.
She said the proceedings had placed her in a "daunting" emotional place and forced her to relive her attendance at the trial of her husband's killers.
"I feel that this matter with Mr Gardner will draw the eyes of the world upon us again," she said.
"I feel disgusted about Mr Gardner not making good his promises with regard to my son and abusing my family name."
Sentencing Gardner, Recorder Helen Malcolm QC said: "There has been an impact on every one of those who volunteered to assist you."
She added: "Not one penny of the sums that you collected have been paid to Jack Rigby.
"I accept all the evidence that you worked very hard. In your favour I accept that you did not set out with the intention to defraud.
"The fact remains that what you did was undoubtedly dishonest. I would say it was indeed despicable."
The jury found him guilty on two counts of fraud. He was cleared of one count which alleged he failed to keep a record of the amounts raised from fundraisers.