A printshop fraudster ripped off charitable causes, businesses, schools, parish councils and local authorities who ordered his branded mugs, pens and brollies.
Father-of-four Carl Pickering, 41, of Townlea Close, Penwortham, has narrowly avoided an immediate jail term due to his family situation but must do 150 hours unpaid work after admitting a string of frauds amounting to £9,800.
Prosecuting, Lisa Worsley said the case arose when people contacted police and Trading Standards in August 2012 after they had placed orders with three online firms – Monster Mugs, Focus Gifts and Focus Branding.
She said: “ They had not received any goods and could not contact the company to obtain a refund.”
It was initially treated as a civil matter but police became involved and when visiting Pickering at his Penwortham home, he had claimed he was renting premises.
She added: “In his garage officers found a laptop and saw a machine for printing mugs, though it didn’t seem to be in operation.
“He said he was aware of emails and would take steps to refund people.
“Bank statements for the defendant showed 52 transactions which seemed to demonstrate businesses depositing money. The police failed to find any customers for whom he had fulfilled orders.”
The court heard trader James Harris had ordered 250 printed beach balls from Focus Gifts and when enquiring where they were he was told they had been posted and was given a fake tracking number.
An order by Jonathan Bishop for 1,000 printed Queen’s Jubilee mugs for a parish council was also never met.
Alan Stevens, a representative of the Royal British Legion ordered mugs for a poppy appeal that were never sent.
Defending Pickering, who now works as a web designer, Miss McGill said: “He did not set out to create these businesses to defraud people.
“He has been completely overwhelmed by very delicate and difficult family circumstances that have pushed him to breaking point and as such he has disintegrated into dishonest behaviour.”
She said his youngest son had a rare genetic disorder, with signs of the condition now showing in two of his older children. His wife Natalie is ill with a condition that makes her fall unconscious randomly, while his mum has leukaemia and his sister has MS.
Suspending his 12 month sentence for 18 months, Judge Richard Pearce said: “Having established a perfectly legitimate business you reached a point where you were not able to fulfil orders, yet you carried on receiving from more customers for goods that were not delivered an were never likely to be delivered.
“When some of those victims challenged you it is apparent you were quite aggressive.”