Fraudster jailed for using deaf charity to con businesses
A Co Antrim man who claimed he was collecting money for deaf children and who asked more than 20 businesses for a donation was jailed yesterday for the "mean-spirited offence".
Ryan Best used a letter from the National Deaf Children's Society to try and persuade businesses in Glengormley to hand over a minimum donation of £5.
However, many of those he approached were suspicious of his actions as he was dishevelled and appeared to be under the influence of drugs.
Belfast Crown Court heard that at the time of his offending, Best (22), from Fernagh Court in Newtownabbey, was abusing pregabalin.
Judge Geoffrey Miller handed him a two-year sentence.
Six months of this will be spent behind bars, with the remaining 18 months spent on licence.
Best admitted a total of 22 counts of fraud by false representation, which he committed on June 14 this year.
On 22 separate occasions over the course of one day, he approached businesses, claimed he was collecting money on behalf of deaf children and asked for donations.
A Crown prosecutor said that, in total, the defendant was handed around £30.
He added that in most cases when Best asked for money, he ended up leaving the premises empty-handed.
The fraudster showed people a letter from the National Deaf Children's Society.
The court heard he received it from the charity after he set up a direct debit.
However, the direct debit was cancelled by a family member after the charity was unable to collect money from the defendant's bank account due to lack of funds.
Several of the businesses approached by Best reported the incident to police, and he was arrested on the Carnmoney Road that day.
He admitted the frauds, and also stealing a bottle of Fanta valued at £1.50 from a restaurant.
Defence barrister Jonpaul Shields said that at the time of offending, his client was under the influence of pregabalin and had very little recollection of what he did.
Pointing out that "most of the attempts he made were rebuffed", Mr Shields accepted the offending was mean and said: "It is something he is ashamed of."
The barrister also said that, during Best's time in remand, he has passed his latest drugs test.
Jailing the defendant for the "mean-spirited offence", Judge Miller told him: "Your behaviour and your demeanour gave rise to considerable scepticism on the part of those you spoke to."
The judge also noted Best's "very significant problems", which include both drug addiction and mental health issues.
After passing sentence, Judge Miller told him that, as part of his licence conditions, he needed to "engage in, participate and complete" any probation courses that will help to tackle both his addictions and other issues.
He was also warned that any breaches during the licence period could result in a return to prison.