A man who collected thousands of pounds for the son of murdered fusilier Lee Rigby spent the money on producing a song he knew would be a “flop”, a court has heard.
Gary Gardner raised at least £24,000 from various events but jurors were told that only £4,000 made its way to any charity because of his “enthusiasm for promoting emerging music artists”.
He is accused of using some of these funds to make a charity track called Miss You Machine, despite members of the Military Wives Choir warning it would fail to make money.
Jurors heard the defendant also used the profits for travel expenses in London as he allegedly transferred cash from the charity fund to his own personal account.
The lorry driver, 56, put on three truck-pull events in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in the Leicestershire village of Medbourne and also in Market Harborough – fundraisers which were attended by thousands of people, including Fusilier Rigby’s widow Rebecca and his son Jack.
In May 2013, Private Lee Rigby of the Royal Fusiliers was murdered on the streets of London. Leicester Crown Court heard that shortly after his death, Gardner said he wanted to raise money for Jack Rigby and local Medbourne village causes.
Despite Gardner allegedly using funds for his own expenses, Mrs Rigby said she had to pay for her own travel and accommodation to attend a truck-pull event he organised, and never received any money for Jack.
Giving evidence on Monday, she said: “Gary invited us to Medbourne to a truck-pull event. I paid for my expenses… hotels and meals.
“There were talks of climbing Kilimanjaro, there were a number of things he wanted to do to raise funds for Jack.
“He spoke about large money – thousands – and it was as if it would set Jack up for life.”
Mrs Rigby was asked: “Have you ever received any money from this defendant?” to which she replied: “Jack and myself have never received a penny from him.”
The prosecution alleged that no money had made its way to Jack despite the defendant sending emails to Rebecca saying he wanted to raise “even more money for Jack’s trust fund”.
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Opening the case against Gardner, prosecutor Sam Skinner said: “In this case the defendant, Gary Gardner, using the names of Private Lee Rigby and his son Jack Rigby, raised thousands of pounds in charitable donations.
“But the defendant has never handed any of the money raised on behalf of Jack Rigby for his trust fund over to Jack Rigby.
“The defendant kept no accurate records of exactly how much money he raised on Jack Rigby’s behalf.”
He added: “In any event, the defendant used some of the money for a purpose that the original donors never intended and would not have approved if they had known. It appears that the defendant has spent all the money he received.”
Speaking of how Gardner had allegedly used the money, Mr Skinner said: “He spent questionable amounts of donors’ money on travel and expenses for himself in London.
“He has not given Jack Rigby or his trust fund any money. But the defendant declared publicly in late 2013 that he donated £3,000 to Jack Rigby. This public declaration was not true.
“As the weeks passed, the defendant kept in contact with Rebecca Rigby. In one email, he said to her that he wanted to put on more events to raise ‘even more money for Jack’s trust fund’.”
Mr Skinner continued: “In fact, he did use some of the money to finance production of a charity music single called Miss You Machine.
“As the defendant was aware would happen, the charity single was a flop. The defendant not only exposed Jack Rigby to the risk of losing his money from the 2013 truck-pull, he actually lost the money as well.
“The defendant appears to have an enthusiasm for promoting ’emerging music artists’ and it is the showcasing of these acts that has swallowed up most of the verifiable donations.”
The prosecution added that donors “would not have agreed that their money could be used for that purpose”.
Gardner, of Old Holt Road, Medbourne, Leicestershire, denies three counts of fraud.
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