An ex-soldier and two other men have been cleared of dishonestly obtaining cash from members of the public who donated cash to help injured servicemen and women.
Sellers in military-style clothing representing the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) UK Ltd visited high streets, shopping centres and event venues across the UK selling raffle tickets. Tickets cost £2.50 each with the chance to win a prestige car or £10,000 in cash.
The stated purpose on the tickets was to raise £10,000 for WWP UK Ltd, which would give handouts to needy ex-forces personnel.
Collections were also taken in buckets while tickets were sold from stalls.
The competition was run by a company called Keystone Fundraising of which William Knight, 51, and John Wadsworth, 46, were directors, who in turn were both also directors of WWP UK Ltd. Fellow defendant Patrick Jarrett, 49, was also a director of Keystone for a short time.
None of the proceeds went anywhere near an injured serviceman or woman, according to prosecutors for Blackpool Council’s trading standards department.
It was later found that more than 133,000 tickets were sold out of more than 180,000 printed and they generated sales of £332,707.
Preston Crown Court heard Knight later told investigators that the money from ticket sales was intended to go on wages and administration costs and that the bucket collections were the only source of cash for WWP UK Ltd, which was not a registered charity.
Giving evidence, Knight said all he intended to do was to make a difference to injured soldiers’ lives. His plans were flawed but not dishonest, the jury was told.
The jury heard around £10,000 was to be handed over to Help For Heroes at a charity night – until it decided not to be involved and cut ties with the organisation.
But on the very day of the fund- raising handover there was a burglary at the Wounded Warrior office in Blackpool and its safe containing £16,000 was stolen.
Knight, Wadsworth and Jarrett, all of Blackpool, were found not guilty of conspiracy to defraud and not guilty of possession of criminal property.
Councillor Gillian Campbell, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for housing and quality standards, said: “This is a hugely disappointing result for us.”