A reality TV star who set up a children’s cancer charity is facing jail after he was found guilty of stealing £87,000 from the organisation.
Colin Nesbitt, 60, who appeared on Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire in 2012, founded Little Heroes Cancer Trust to provide toys to poorly children in hospital after his own grandson fell ill with the disease.
But Nesbitt pocketed some of the cash that was raised via the trust through various events, with the total being diverted totalling close to £100,000, prosecutor James Lake told Bradford Crown Court.
The defendant denied making financial gains from the charity, but this week he was found guilty of four counts of fraud and two counts of theft at the end of a five-week trial.
Nesbitt, who was also convicted of abusing his position as director of the organisation, had sole control of the accounts and did not want other people banking cash from fundraising events, the court heard.
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Lake said Nesbitt paid large amounts of cash into accounts not linked to the charity and gave out dishonest loans with its money on two occasions.
Nesbitt appeared on Secret Millionaire, a reality show in which millionaires go incognito and agree to give away money to those in need, in 2012.
In the episode, poker player Andrew Feldman gifted £100,000 to Little Heroes.
Nesbitt was first arrested three years later in 2015 after financial concerns were raised by the Charity Commission.
He admitted being poor at financial management but denied fraud, the court heard, telling officers he did not even take a wage.
The jury was told Nesbitt founded the trust in 2008 to give toys to children in hospital with cancer after his own grandson became ill with the disease.
He told the court: “It was awesome taking toys to sick children.”
The toy drops began at St James Hospital in Leeds but spread to other hospitals across the country, with £1,000 spent on toys every time.
Nesbitt conceded it was hard to keep track of the finances but denied any wrongdoing.
He said: “I wasn’t being careful enough with the money but I wasn’t being dishonest."
However, Lake labelled him “greedy and dishonest”, adding: “He did raise money for charity and put smiles on children’s faces but all the while he was the charity’s biggest liability and feathering his own nest.”
Lake accused Nesbitt of using the charity’s money for his personal expenditure, including buying a suit and paying for a holiday in Gran Canaria.
As well as Nesbitt’s convictions, he was cleared of a further similar charge of fraud in the sum of £120,482 and acquitted of a further count of stealing £7,000 from the organisation.
Judge Jonathan Gibson told the defendant “a custodial sentence will be under consideration” when he is sentenced on 30 April.
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