A callous conman who pocketed thousands by claiming he was collecting unwanted clothes for Barnardo’s childrens’ charity has been jailed for 13 months.
Darius Kaminskas, 25, made fake bags copying the charity’s own – but misspelled the name ‘Bernhardos’.
He left them on hundreds of doorsteps and sent the donated clothes back to his home country, where they were sold on the thriving secondhand market.
Kaminskas also posed as a collector for a breast cancer charity and made an estimated £35,000 in just nine months with nothing going to the real charities.
He was caught when trading standards officials received numerous complaints from suspicious householders from Dorset to Wiltshire and the West Midlands.
His bogus bags misspelled Barnardo’s as ‘Bernhardos’ and when quizzed Kaminskas claimed that was the name of a Lithuanian church.
Kaminskas, who operated the con through his ‘Sparko Ltd’ company, admitted fraudulent trading and was jailed for 13 months.
Bristol Crown Court heard that the hoaxer, of Horfield, Bristol, got the idea for his scheme after working for legitimate charity collectors.
He set up his company in April 2010 and recruited three accomplices to distribute the bags across a wide area.
His ‘Bernhardos’ bags used the same green bag as the charity’s genuine collection bag and had phrases similar to those used by Barnardo’s.
He also made bags bearing a pink ribbon commonly associated with breast cancer charities.
The particular version Kaminskas delivered used the trademark of a Lithuanian charity tackling breast cancer by the name of Azzara.
Both fake bags falsely claimed to generate charity income of £50 for every tonne of clothing collected.
But Alan Fuller, prosecuting for Bristol City Council, said Kaminskas sold the clothing to wholesalers in Lithuania where he got around 50p per kilo.
When his company base was raided investigators found thousands of the fake charity bags.
They also seized a laptop containing scanned images of at least 38 different charity bags.
When quizzed Kaminskas claimed he was collecting on behalf of a church in Lithuania which translated as ‘Bernhardos’ – but that turned out to be a lie.
Defending, Rupert Lowe claimed that Kaminskas, who has a partner and a two month-old child, was a hard worker.
He said: “He could see money being made and thought ‘I could do it for myself’.”
Jailing Kaminskas, Judge Julian Lambert told him: “You were callous and cynical.
“Scam is the right word in English for what you did. Public confidence is greatly dented by what you did.”
Kaminskas was also disqualified from being a company director for seven years.
After the case Bristol City Council spokesman Stephen Meale said: “The collection of donated goods, especially clothing, is a very significant income stream for many charities.
“The cynical and fraudulent use of bags falsely claiming to be collecting on behalf of charities is not only abusing people’s good will and depriving charities of income intended for them to carry out their work but will erode people’s confidence in this significant means of fundraising.”
The Association of Charity Shops says bogus collectors deprive genuine good causes of millions of pounds every year.
The City of London police estimate that charity bag theft and fraud costs charities £50 million per annum.
Barnardo’s spokesman Chris Judd said: “We are concerned that our supporters would have been deeply distressed and disappointed to learn that their donations which they made in good faith were being misused in this way.
“We are very grateful to the various agencies who worked hard to bring this successful prosecution which sends out a clear warning to anyone else involved in this type of crime.
“We hope that the case doesn’t deter people from supporting us and other charities.”
Mr Judd, the charity’s assistant director of retail, pointed out that Barnardo’s no longer does doorstep collections.
He added: “If people want to donate clothes or other items, the best way to make sure they reach the right destination is to take them into a local Barnardo’s store.”