A bogus charity bag collector who flooded Warwickshire with clothing collection bags on which were printed the words ‘Air Ambulance’, ‘Urgent’ and ‘Clothing Collection’ in large letters has been successfully prosecuted.
Evaldas Guoga of Rednal, Birmingham, misled Warwickshire residents in to thinking their donations would benefit the Air Ambulance Charity, when in reality he was operating an “organised scam”.
Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards Officers working with Warwickshire Police stopped a collection van operating in the county and seized bogus bags and donated clothing.
Officers then took a witness statement from a consumer who had made a donation and supplied their evidence to Norfolk Trading Standards who were already investigating the bogus collector. Norfolk agreed to coordinate the prosecution.
Cllr Les Caborn, the county councillor responsible for community safety, said: “This particular scam did untold damage to the ability of genuine charities to raise money and I am delighted not only that the perpetrator of this crime was stopped and thousands of his bogus bags seized, but that he was subsequently successfully prosecuted.”
Cllr Richard Chattaway, chairman of the county council’s overview and scrutiny committee, added: “Doorstep clothing collections have long been a simple and popular way for residents to give to charity and genuine charities to collect. We will continue to work to tackle scams and ensure that communities can have confidence that when they put their unwanted items on the doorstep, their donations will benefit people in real need.”
On 28 May 2014, at Norwich Magistrates Court, Guoga pleaded guilty to three offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 for misleading people with his ‘charity’ clothing collection bags in Norfolk, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire.
Guoga was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay £120 victim surcharge. Passing sentence, the chairman of the magistrates described Mr Guoga’s actions as “a mean sort of offence”, “fraudulent”, and ‘an organised scam’, and told him that he was going to have to improve his trading morality.
The court heard that Guoga set up a limited company called E&N Textiles in December 2010 and a website called www.airambulanceservice.org.uk, which had no connection to any legitimate air ambulance organisations. He had a large number of clothing collection bags printed with the words ‘Air Ambulance’, ‘Urgent’ and ‘Clothing Collection’ in large letters and a reference in very small print to the name of his company.
Guoga was originally due to appear in court in July 2012, but prior to the hearing he was arrested and held in prison on a completely different charge, on which he was later acquitted. He was served with Trading Standards court papers in prison and warned that if he were released the Norfolk prosecution would be reinstated. He left prison and warrant without bail was issued in February 2013. In March 2014, Guoga was arrested in Birmingham for a driving offence and brought under warrant to court in Norwich on 2 April.