Darren Adam 1am - 4am
'Banana man' charity fundraiser found guilty of fraud
22 July 2020, 15:48
A 'devious' conman who dressed up as a banana to raise money for charity has been found guilty of defrauding a disabled woman and her daughter of hundreds of pounds.
Kevin Cole, who also goes by the alias Peter Penfold, was found guilty of two counts of fraud by false representation.
The 55-year-old fundraiser had been contacted by an old school friend on Facebook in 2016 after he falsely claimed to be a manager of a charity.
This old school friend, the victim, was not aware that Cole actually only worked as a volunteer collector and only received money for food and travel.
He told the victim, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, that if she provided a donation of £300 to the charity she would be eligible to receive a £30,000 home improvements grant.
Cole then gave the victim a fraudulent receipt in exchange for her £300 donation, police said.
However, the charity has never provided grants for home improvements.
Cole then also befriended the victim's daughter, who was 19 at the time.
He agreed to employ the daughter as his receptionist at the charity he claimed to manage if she left her current place of work and gave him £100 for two sets of uniform.
She resigned from her place of work and as given a start date by Cole. However, the charity she believed she would be working for had closed two years earlier.
Cole was interviewed by police in January 2017, where he replied mostly "no comment" to the majority of the questions put to him.
He was charged with two counts of fraud by false representation on June 27, 2017.
During the trial which started on Monday, July 13, it was revealed that Cole promotes himself as the "Banana Man" when he dressed up to collect money for charity.
He also claimed to have collected £1.2 million for charity during his life.
During the trial, Cole admitted to being given the money by both the mother and daughter.
He also admitted in court to being arrested numerous times for fraud, making the court aware of his 22 previous convictions.
He was sentenced at Inner London Crown Court to repay the victims the sum of £400 and four months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.
Investigating officer PC Carl Blissett said: "I was disgusted that anyone could take £300 while promising to dramatically change someone’s life knowing that it was no more than hot air.
"He used the names of former charities to entice the victims to supply him with funds, raising their hopes that they might vastly improve their circumstances.
"How Cole was able to sleep at night knowing what he had done to a vulnerable mother and daughter beggars belief and it is gratifying to know that he has been made to answer for his crimes."
PC Blissett added: "The mother’s hopes of a better life were dashed and her daughter gave up her employment for a job that never existed – this clearly demonstrates how devious and self-serving Cole truly is.
"Whilst this was a long and drawn out investigation and court process, it was worth every hour invested.
"No one should have their hard earned cash taken away from them in this callous way and I hope this outcome serves as a message to anyone committing fraud that not only do we take these allegations seriously, but we will find those responsible and hold them to account.”