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Prolific charity box thief admits stealing donations in Dartford and Gravesend
A PROLIFIC charity box thief has admitted to stealing money destined for a string of good causes including a children’s hospice.
Mother-of-four Michelle Roberts, 43, of Ascot Road in Gravesend, pleaded guilty to six counts of fraud by misrepresentation at Dartford Magistrates’ Court this morning (June 20).
A further 15 incidents involving the theft of at least £108 were not presented to the court but were asked to be taken into consideration.
The court heard how Roberts, who used to work as a care assistant, posed as a collector for children’s charity Demelza Hospice and collected more than £170 between April 21 and May 16.
Cash placed in collection boxes destined for the Kent Association for the Blind, Kent Air Ambulance and the Afghan Heroes was also taken during this time.
Stacey Holland, prosecuting, explained Roberts first posed as a Demelza representative in the Falcon Cafe, Gillingham, on April 21 this year.
She said: “Roberts had an ID card around her neck and a presentation folder about the charity.
“She had her 13-year-old son with her and presented him as a child the charity has helped.”
As well as charging the cafe owner £20 for an advert in the charity’s next newsletter, she took the Demelza charity tin and its contents, promising to return it later in the afternoon.
Between May 3 and 5, Roberts went on to take £33 from a tin destined for the Kent Association for the Blind, which was on the counter of Laydon’s Sweet Shop, in Stone.
Ms Holland explained: “She emptied the tin into her own box and put a receipt in the empty charity box.
“The shop owner asked where the usual collector was and she was told that she had passed away and the charity should have informed them.”
The following week, on May 13, she targeted the Ship Inn pub, in Green Street Green Road, Dartford, where she took money donated to the Kent Air Ambulance and Afghan Heroes, as well as Demelza.
After she had left with a total of £108.69, the suspicious landlady telephoned Demelza, who confirmed her pub had been targeted by a fraudulent collector.
On May 16, Roberts went on to target the Welcome All pub in London Road, Greenhithe and the Earl Grey pub in Vale Road, Northfleet.
After claiming her name was Penny Lynch at the Welcome All, she took £9 from a sweet collection box but the police were called after she failed to show any form of identification at the Earl Grey.
In mitigation, Victoria Hart told the court how Roberts had already stopped committing these offences by the time she was arrested.
Ms Hart explained Roberts had also put some money back into charity boxes as “she felt so guilt-ridden.”
After the family’s house in south east London was re-possessed, the family moved to Kent, where Roberts claimed she became the victim of domestic abuse.
With both her and her husband out of work, this plan was “a last resort to bring some cash into the family.”
Magistrate Kevin Sivell showed signs of disbelief as he addressed Roberts in the dock.
He said: “I’m really at a loss of words to describe how we feel about these offences.
“I don’t think anything I can say can express our true feelings.
“We feel this fraud was pre-planned.
“We’re going to ask for a pre sentence report with all options, including Crown Court for sentencing.
“Really, we can’t say anything more than that without getting emotional.”
Roberts was granted unconditional bail to return to the same court on July 11.