Bogus Help for Heroes collector who posed as war veteran in military uniform has assets stripped by court

David Santini. Photo credit: Media Lincs
David Santini. Photo credit: Media Lincs
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A bogus Help for Heroes collector who posed in military uniform claiming to be a serving soldier today (Monday) had his assets confiscated by a judge.

David Santini, 56, of North Drove, Quadring, near Spalding, claimed he was "just back from Afghanistan" when challenged while collecting from unsuspecting people at Newark Antiques Fair.

But he was revealed to be a fraudster and in November last year he was jailed for 15 months.

At a confiscation hearing today (Monday) Judge Andrew Easteal ruled that Santini's benefit from his crimes was £5,000.

The Judge ordered that Santini's available assets of £725 should be confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The money includes £517.95 cash plus a further £207.11 held in a bank account. He was given 28 days to hand over the money or face a further month in jail.

The court was told that Santini has been freed from jail under the early release scheme.

When Santini was sentenced the court was told that when he was challenged he was unable to produce an Armed Forces identity card. It was later discovered that he previously served in the Army but received a dishonourable discharge in 1983.

Further investigations revealed Santini had also been collecting in the Skegness area.

And he was found to have taken £2,000 from Patricia Taylor, a widow in her 70s with Alzheimer's, who believed the money was going to a local Help for Heroes charity.

Siward James-Moore, prosecuting, said: "People were distressed when they discovered he was not who he said he was."

The court heard Santini came to the attention of police who were patrolling an antiques fair at Newark showground in June 2014.

Mr James-Moore said: "Police spoke to him. He said he had just got back from Afghanistan and had got in to some bother with some Paras, and this was his punishment.

"He said the public had been very generous. He claimed he was staying at RAF Waddington and as the police officers spoke to him members of the public were putting money in a red bucket.

"One of the officers became suspicious of the uniform he was wearing as it was part Royal Marine, and part Royal Air Force.

"There were also suspicions from another stallholder who said Santini could not talk about his regiment.

"He was asked for his Armed Forces identity card. At that point he said he didn't have one and tried to say that he hadn't said he was in the forces, but had been in the past."

When police searched the transit van Santini was living in at the time £269-52 was found in the glove compartment.

Officers also recovered £222-14 from the red bucket and £26-50 from a charity box.

During a police interview Santini claimed to have "Help for Heroes"authorisation in the name of a prison officer friend and described his remark about Afghanistan as "bravado."

The court heard Santini has a string of previous convictions for dishonesty and in January 2000 was jailed for two and half years at Bradford Crown Court for five offences of theft and deception where he targeted vulnerable women and pretended to be a serving soldier.

On one occasion Santini claimed he needed money to buy himself out of the Army and flee the country, and on another Santini said he needed cash to give to fellow soldiers.

Santini, 56, of North Drove, Quadring, near Spalding, pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud between June and October 2014 and a further charge of theft from Mrs Taylor.