Conman took thousands from kids charity

A CONMAN has today avoided jail after admitting defrauding a children's charity of �8,000 to feed a gambling habit.

A CONMAN has today avoided jail after admitting defrauding a children's charity of �8,000 to feed a gambling habit.

Gary Ferris pleaded guilty to organising bogus events in Essex, Norfolk and Surrey to raise money for sick children.

The 38-year-old from Ashford, in Kent, was handed a suspended sentence for 15 fraud offences following a 13-month investigation.

Ferris held charity race nights at clubs and pubs across Kent and three other counties to raise money for the registered charity Hopes & Dreams, based in Redbridge, Essex, which funds holidays and trips for chronically, seriously and terminally ill children.

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Ferris asked the charity in July 2007 if he could hold a race night to raise funds for them.

Hopes & Dreams, which holds its own race nights in Chigwell, said it would welcome any money raised but would not endorse the event with their logo.

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Ferris went on to hold several events a week under the name Funtime Racetime which saw event goers bet on horse races shown on a DVD.

Pub owners who had offered their premises for the race nights contacted Hopes & Dreams in February last year concerned they had not received certificates from the charity confirming how much had been raised.

The police identified 15 locations, including Chelmsford and Southend, where race nights had been held, raising a total of �8,180 - none of which was forwarded by Ferris to the Hopes & Dreams charity.

Kent Police arrested Ferris who admitted an online gambling addiction that amounted to tens of thousands of pounds and had resulted in the loss of his house and his car.

Ferris received a six month prison sentence suspended for two years and 180 hours of unpaid community work at Canterbury Crown Court.

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