Journalists at Horse and Hound (H&H) were among the first to suspect fraudster Kerry Louise Palin who had used the equestrian community to set up a group called We Support Australia Charity Auction.
The magazine reported, as far back as January 2020, Palin’s group – which had 7,000 members – had offered for sale auction lots included semen from top stallions and equestrian items and crafts.
“Bidding was to close on 11 January and the money raised was to go to various Australian charities,” the magazine reported.
But Palin, then of High Street, Fletton, Peterborough, had no intention of handing the cash over to victims of the Australian bushfires or any other good causes but instead spent it on clothes, beauty treatments. including a treadmill, hair extensions and a new rug.
Palin, 27, gave just £2.50 ($5 AUD) to four charities and then spent the rest – £34,000- on herself.
First indications of her fraud came in February of 2020 when Cambridgeshire Police and Action Fraud confirmed to H&H that they were investigating allegations the money raised via the We Support Australia Charity Auction Facebook group had not been passed on to the charities in Australia as expected.
Cambridgeshire Police confirmed to H&H that on February I they had been contacted with reports of fraud in Peterborough.
Days later Palin issued a denial.
‘I have nothing to hide ‘
On February 8 she released a statement stating that “I have nothing to hide but I have followed police advice and haven’t addressed the matter, however, this incident has had such a profound effect on my wellbeing I feel I have had to address this.
“The police have just been to my house to give me an update, which isn’t much.
“The officer in charge hasn’t been working office hours and is a response officer so he is doing what he can. He has said my next update will be next Thursday [and] they will then contact Action Fraud to find out how their investigation is going and work together.
“Please stop the online abuse and rumours. These are incredibly damaging both mentally and physically.
“If you have your own concerns, I advise you call 101 or Action Fraud. Facebook is not the place to do your own investigation; this is why we have trained professionals.
“I am as keen as you all are to sort this matter.”
Action Fraud steps in
H&H had it confirmed to them by Action Fraud that it had received the case in January 2020 and that it was being assessed by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau
Last Friday, August 11, justice caught up with Palin.
And it turned out she had admitted her fraud to police soon after its discovery.
Peterborough Crown Court was told that Palin was living in Peterborough in January 2020 when she decided to set up an equestrian-themed online auction on Facebook to help raise money for wildlife victims of the bushfires.
More than 300 people donated goods to sell.
People began bidding for the items and paid the money directly to Palin via her bank or PayPal accounts.
The court was told they did so in good faith, believing the funds would be distributed to charities helping animals and wildlife victims of the fires.
Pitiful donations to Australia victims
Palin donated $5 AUD each to four different charities and sent doctored screenshots of the receipts to make it look as though more money had been paid.
When donors raised their concerns, Palin would block them, so they were unable to contact her.
But the court was told, that after mounting pressure from donors and issues with her PayPal account due to the high level of funds being transferred, Palin contacted police herself and admitted to spending some of the money on luxury items, including a treadmill, hair extensions and a new rug.
Palin, of Pemberton Street, Rushden, Northamptonshire, later pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation, concealing criminal property and acquiring criminal property.
She was sentenced to 16 months in prison.
Her partner, David Collins, 39, pleaded guilty to acquiring criminal property, after parcels at their home were found in his name.
He was given a conditional discharge.
‘Appalling case of fraud’
PC Sam Dane, who investigated, said: “This was an appalling case of fraud where Palin not only deceived generous, kind-natured individuals, but deprived the wildlife victims of the wildfires of thousands of pounds in donations, which would have made a huge difference to their lives.
“Instead of helping the desperate victims of these horrific events, the money was spent on frivolous and unnecessary luxuries.
“I hope this goes to show how seriously we take these offences, and I am glad justice has been done.
“I would urge anyone wanting to donate money to good causes online to be vigilant and, if in doubt, consider giving directly to the charity itself.”
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