Ex-soldier David Santini admits Help for Heroes fraud

David Santini Image copyright Media Lincs
Image caption Santini was wearing a mismatched military uniform when he was challenged by police

A bogus Help for Heroes collector pocketed hundreds of pounds by posing in a military uniform and pretending to be a serving soldier, a court heard.

David Santini, 55, was caught collecting cash at an antiques fair after police became suspicious about the style of his uniform.

Santini claimed to have "just got back from Afghanistan" when he was challenged.

He admitted two charges of fraud and a charge of theft at Lincoln Crown Court.

Santini came to the attention of police who were patrolling the antiques fair at Newark Showground on 6 June, 2014.

'Discharged in 1983'

Edna Leonard, prosecuting, told the court how a police officer became suspicious of the uniform he was wearing - a mixture of RAF and Royal Marines garb.

She said: "He was asked for his Armed Forces identity card. At that point he said he didn't have one and tried to say that he hadn't said he was in the Forces, but had been in the past."

"He was in the Army but was discharged in 1983," she told the court.

The court also heard Santini befriended Patricia Taylor, a widow in her 70s, and pocketed £2,000 which she wanted to donate to a Lincolnshire-based veteran's charity.

Santini, who the court heard has a string of previous convictions for dishonesty, was also given a rent-free pitch for a paintball range near Skegness, which made about £2,000, prosecutors estimated.

He also collected a further £791 from buckets placed in local bars.

In mitigation, Diane Mundill said the cash collected in Newark was with police, and Mrs Taylor's money had been paid back.

Her nominated charity also received payment of £970.

Santini, of North Drove, Quadring, Lincolnshire, admitted two charges of fraud between June and October, 2014, and a charge of theft from Mrs Taylor.

He was granted bail until November while it is established how much money he benefitted from.

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