Bicester-based charity collection scam is shut down by High Court

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SONY DSC

TWO Bicester-registered companies running a charity clothing collection scam have been shut down by the High Court.

The two firms, St Anthony (Trading Co) Ltd and St Anthony Repatriation Ltd, were registered to an address in Bernwood Road, and had a common director, Anthony Joseph Durkin.

The firms were closed down following an investigation by the Insolvency Service, which found they were making misleading representations that proceeds from charity bag collections would be donated to local air ambulance charities.

Investigation supervisor David Hill said: “In winding up these companies, the court is sending a clear message that schemes which set out to deliberately mislead the public in this manner are not acceptable and will be closed when we become aware of them.”

The investigation found the companies were operating in a similar manner, attempting to pass themselves off as authorised collection agents by making charity bag drops in residential areas. Attached leaflets would bear similarities to official air ambulance charities, in particular to Midlands Air Ambulance.

At no time were the companies authorised by any air ambulance service to act as charity fundraisers.

Investigators say they do not know what happened to any proceeds from the sale of clothing collected, but they say no evidence of donations to any air ambulance charity was found.

The High Court found the activities of the companies were also in breach of the House to House Collections Act 1939, which regulates door-to-door leaflet drops concerning charities. The act requires companies conducting charity collections to get a licence, which none of the firms had done.

Several local authorities had received complaints over the companies’ activities.

A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards said: “The company was using a name which could have misled people into believing they were giving to a charity, so we are happy this ambiguity has been removed by the Insolvency Service.”

A third firm, Air Ambulance Support Community Interest Company, was also shut down. A former director, Tomas Michkauskas, had worked as a leaflet distributor for both St Anthony firms.