A fundraiser who pocketed cash collected for the young son of murdered soldier Lee Rigby has been found guilty of two counts of fraud.
Jurors unanimously convicted Gary Gardner – who had spent profits on producing a music single he knew would be a “flop”.
Leicester Crown Court heard how the fraudster spent up to £5,000 donated by the public for Jack Rigby on producing a charity music single which only raised £200.
Gardner, 56, denied fraud, claiming his charity single was a flop because of “atrocious weather” at the launch event in London’s Trafalgar Square in February 2014.
But the jury found him guilty after accepting that he used trust funds to “prop up” his overdrawn bank account – a verdict which provoked no emotion from the defendant.
Lee Rigby’s widow Rebecca was in court to hear the two guilty verdicts on Thursday.
Opening the crown’s case at the start of the one-week trial, prosecutor Samuel Skinner said Gardner also used profits for travel expenses in London as he transferred funds from the charity bank account to his own personal account.
Skinner told jurors: “The defendant appears to have an enthusiasm for promoting emerging music artists and it is the showcasing of these acts that has swallowed up most of the verifiable donations.
“In any event, the defendant used some of the money for a purpose that the original donors never intended and would not have approved if they had known.
“It appears that the defendant has spent all the money he received.”
The court was told the lorry driver put on truck-pull events in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in the Leicestershire villages of Medbourne and Market Harborough, and Stroud, Gloucestershire – fundraisers which were attended by thousands of people, including Fusilier Rigby’s widow and his son Jack.
In May 2013, Rigby, of the Royal Fusiliers was murdered on the streets of London and shortly after the soldier’s death, Gardner said he wanted to raise money for Jack Rigby and local Medbourne village causes.
Giving evidence in the trial, Rebecca Rigby said: “There were talks of climbing Kilimanjaro, there were a number of things he wanted to do to raise funds for Jack.
“He spoke about large money – thousands – and it was as if it would set Jack up for life.”
Rigby was asked: “Have you ever received any money from this defendant?” to which she replied: “Jack and myself have never received a penny from him.”
Gardner had denied three counts of fraud but was found not guilty of one count, which alleged he failed to keep a record of the amounts raised from fundraisers.
After verdicts were reached, Steven Kennell from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: “Gary Gardner’s beneficiary, the trust set up for Fusilier Rigby’s son, never received a penny from him.
“The CPS has presented clear-cut evidence to the court that Gardner did not pass any of the money he raised to the trust fund, and only made the local donations he did make when confronted about his activities.
“Whatever his intentions in starting his fundraising, the jury has agreed his activities constituted fraud, in failing to transfer the funds to the beneficiary and spending funds on the charity single.”
Kennell added: “It was the prosecution’s case that he has behaved dishonestly throughout, even inviting the Rigby family to attend his events and posing publicly with a presentation cheque to imply he had donated the money.”
Recorder Helen Malcolm QC granted Gardner conditional bail until sentencing at the same court on Friday.