A ‘Bananaman’ fundraiser who conned a mother out of £300 and got her daughter to quit her job to work for him in a non-existent charity role has been found guilty of fraud.
Kevin Cole, 55, of Brookfields Avenue, Mitcham, who also goes by the name of Peter Penfold, was found guilty by a jury of two counts of fraud by false representation.
He was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and told to repay the victims the sum of £400, after a four-year investigation.
The court heard that Cole had been contacted by an old school friend, the victim, on Facebook in 2016, where he falsely claimed to be a manager of a charity.
In reality, Cole had only worked for the charity as a volunteer collector, and was only entitled to receive costs for travel and food – not to receive any further money.
Between February and March 2016, Cole told the victim, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, that if she provided a charitable donation of £300 to the charity, she would be eligible to receive a £30,000 home improvements grant.
The charity has never provided grants for home improvements.
The victim was given a fraudulent receipt in exchange for her £300 donation.
Cole then also befriended the victim’s daughter, who was aged 19 at the time.
He agreed to employ her as his receptionist at a different charity if she left her place of employment, and paid £100 for two sets of uniform.
She resigned from her place of work and was given a start date by Cole.
But the charity she believed she was going to work for had, in fact, closed two years previously.
Cole was interviewed by police on January 10, 2017, where he replied mostly “no comment” to the majority of the questions put to him.
One response that he did provided was “You prove that I offered her anything, I haven’t written anything and I haven’t signed nothing. No comment”.
He was charged with two counts of fraud by false representation on June 27, 2017 after the investigation by the Economic Crime Unit within the Met’s Central Specialists Crime Command.
During the trial, which started on Monday, July 13, it was revealed Cole also promoted himself as ‘The Bananaman’ – a persona he dressed up as to collect money for charity. He also claimed he had collected £1.2 million for charity.
During the trial, despite having provided a ‘no comment’ response in interview, Kevin 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.
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.
“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, we will find those responsible and hold them to account.”
Pictured top: Kevin Cole in his ‘Bananaman’ outfit
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