A CONMAN who tricked his three children, other relatives and friends into believing he was dying of cancer was branded a fraudster by a judge who sentenced him to 20 months in prison.
Fasther-of-three Simon Swift was jailed after admitting he lied about having cancer of the spine, brain and bones and claiming he had just weeks to live.
Swift, who is now estranged from his family, appeared for sentencing at Warwickshire Justice Centre in Leamington on Tuesday after earlier pleading guilty to two counts of fraud anf five counts of theft.
The court heard that in April last year Swift was playing with his teenage son when he hurt his ribs and went to hospital.
Heidi Kubic, prosecuting said: “When he came back from hospital he started to tell people that whilst there they had discovered he was suffering from cancer, that it was terminal and that he had six to eight months to live.
“And that was the story he peddled, not only to his friends and family but to other people.”
Well-wishers rallied round to help Swift organise a fundraising event, which was due to be held at Rugby Lions in Webb Ellis Road last summer, to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
Tickets were printed and sold for £5, while town businesses donated raffle prizes worth thousands of pounds. An old school friend of Swift arranged for him to take part in a skydive.
Miss Kubic said: “That was the effort people he knew hearing of his illness took to make his last few months as enjoyable and memorable as possible.”
After reading press coverage in the Advertiser about Swift, University Hospital in Coventry confirmed they had no record of a patient of that name. The fundraiser was cancelled and Swift was arrested on suspicion of theft and fraud.
Miss Kubic: “In interview he accepted he did not have cancer. He maintained there was a stage that he believed he had. He had no radiotherapy, no chemotherapy or no treatment at all.”
The court heard the donated raffle prizes were all found at his house when he was arrested and Swift had collected around £300 to £400 in ticket sales.
In mitigation, Nick Devine said: “Mr Swift is someone who has very low self-esteem. He wanted to gain friends and popularity.
“He is someone who was trying to be the centre of attention and make himself more important. He got it. He found himself being interviewed by the press and he got the attention he craved.”
Mr Devine said Swift had written an apology to Cancer Research UK and regrets what he did.
Sentencing Swift, Judge Christopher Hodson said: “You have committed mean offences that played with the emotions of others. People had sympathy with you and parted with money because of your false story. And other organisations made pledges based upon your yarn and the tale you span. It was all lies.
“You made money, got sympathy and publicity out of this. People thought you were a decent person but you’re nothing but a conman and a fraudster.”
However Judge Hodson said he accepted that Swift was remorseful and sentenced him to 20 months in prison. He has already served 123 days.
Swift was also sentenced to three months, to run concurrently, for not paying a bar tab of £165.11 at the Rupert Brooke pub in Castle Street, Rugby, in November 2009.