Colin Nesbitt has been jailed for defrauding a children’s cancer charity he set up after his grandson fell ill with the disease
The founder of a children’s cancer charity who appeared on the Secret Millionaire TV show has been jailed for defrauding more than £200,000 from it.
Disgraced Colin Nesbitt, 60, founded Little Heroes Cancer Trust to provide toys to poorly children in hospital after his own grandson fell ill with the disease.
But while chairman of the charity between 2010 and 2015, he defrauded it out of thousands to benefit his own personal finances, a court heard.
He was jailed for one year and eight months at Bradford Crown Court on Friday after being found guilty of four counts of fraud by abuse of position and one count of theft by a jury.
Judge Jonathan Gibson said Nesbitt, had used his position to ‘cream off’ some of the money for himself.
He was convicted of stealing a total of £87,000 and defrauding the charity out of a further £235,000 after a five-week trial.
In passing sentence Judge Gibson said that Nesbitt had abused his position to steal significant donations that were intended to assist young children with cancer and their families.
He added that Nesbitt had ‘betrayed the public’ and the public confidence in the charity and the charity sector.
The court heard the trust fundraised through events but that some of the cash was diverted to Nesbitt.
Court heard Nesbitt, 60, (pictured at an earlier hearing) had sole control over the charity’s accounts and would transfer large amounts of cash into accounts not linked to the charity
He had sole control of the accounts and did not want other people banking cash from these, his trial was told.
Nesbitt then paid large amounts of cash into accounts not linked to the charity and gave out dishonest loans with its money.
During his period offending, in 2012, the defendant also appeared on Channel 4’s the Secret Millionaire, a reality show in which millionaires go incognito and agree to give away money to those in need.
In the episode, poker player Andrew Feldman gifted £100,000 to Littler Heroes.
And speaking after the sentence, Detective Constable Simon Turton, who led on the investigation, said: ‘We are pleased his custodial sentence reflects the serious nature of this abuse of position which diverted large amounts of cash from some of the most vulnerable in our society.
‘I would like to thank the former members of staff at Little Heroes Cancer Trust for their actions in exposing Mr Nesbitt’s fraudulent behaviour and for their courage in coming forward and working with the police during this lengthy investigation.
Nesbitt was found guilty of stealing a total of £87,000 and defrauding the children’s cancer charity out of a further £235,000 after a five-week trial at Bradford Crown Court in March
‘It should be noted that many people who were formerly connected with Little Heroes worked hard towards the charity’s aims and it is testament to those people that despite Mr Nesbitt’s actions numerous children and their families did benefit from the charity.
‘We would like to reassure the public that the vast majority of charities operate in a professional and ethical manner; but when information is received that this is not the case then West Yorkshire Police and The Charity Commission will fully investigate such allegations and bring those responsible to justice.’
Nesbitt founded the charity in 2009 and, after an extensive investigation by West Yorkshire Police and the Charity Commission, he was charged in 2018.
During his trial, prosecutor James Lake said Nesbitt was first arrested in 2015 after financial concerns were raised by the Charity Commission.
He admitted being inept at financial management but denied fraud, the court heard, telling officers that he did not even take a wage.
The jury was told Nesbitt founded the trust to give toys to children in hospital with cancer after his own grandson became ill with the disease.
Nesbitt was jailed for 20 months at Bradford Crown Court (pictured) on Friday afternoon
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, Mr Lake labelled him ‘greedy and dishonest.’
He said: ‘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.’
He accused Nesbitt of using the charity’s money for his personal expenditure; including buying a suit, paying for a holiday in Gran Canaria and skimming cash off the fundraising events.
Mr Lake told the jury: ‘Colin Nesbitt is a dishonest man. He did not run this charity badly, he ran it dishonestly.’
Following the trial, he was convicted of four offences of fraud and two of theft.
The defendant 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.