Thomas Alexius Vandermey had pleaded not guilty in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court to 10 charges of attempting to or dishonestly obtaining donations for the Make A Wish Foundation.A MACARTHUR man who posed as a bogus fund-raiser to collect donations for a well-known children’s charity has been handed a suspended jail sentence.
Thomas Alexius Vandermey had pleaded not guilty in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court to 10 charges of attempting to or dishonestly obtaining donations for the Make A Wish Foundation.
Vandermey, 53, of Ardonachy Street, was convicted and given a four-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months.
The charges related to his illegal fund-raising in Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Condah, where he collected a total of $310 from the public.
Magistrate Peter Mellas found all charges proven.
He said the offending breached people’s trust as Vandermey had represented himself as an accredited collector.
Mr Mellas said the message had to be sent to the community that anyone who dishonestly raised funds faced the prospect of time in jail. The magistrate said Vandermey had been vague during a 700-question interview with police, claiming he had registered as a collector but had never actually collected money for Make A Wish.
He also told police that people must have confused him with someone else or that they had his fund-raising mixed up with his collections for Relay For Life.
Mr Mellas said Vandermey’s interview with police raised a number of credibility issues and he did not accept the accused man’s evidence.
He said local and national Make A Wish organisers gave evidence Vandermey was never an accredited fund-raiser and had not left money at their offices in Melbourne.
In evidence, Vandermey said he signed up to the Make A Wish Foundation website and followed through exactly as he had done with the Cancer Council’s Relay For Life for the past seven years.
He said he had attempted to find a group walking from Melbourne to Portland for the foundation and tried to get in touch with an organiser, leaving a message, but no one ever got back to him.
Vandermey said he then went to the foundation’s Melbourne headquarters and dropped off money at the front desk.
“I was double-parked. I ran in and dropped off the money and left,” Vandermey said.
“Information in the envelope contained the names of the people I collected from.”
Vandermey said he later received an email thanking him for his generosity.
“I thought ‘well that’s OK, they got the money’. Then I heard a scream about bogus collectors,” he said.
“I thought I was doing the right thing. I’ve suffered ever since.”
In cross-examination, Senior Constable Nathan Brown asked why Vandermey had double parked before allegedly dropping off the fund-raising money.
Vandermey said no parking spots had been available and he had to get to his work for a private contractor in Ringwood.
Vandermey refused to name the contractor, saying he didn’t want his employer harassed.
The magistrate warned Vandermey to name the contractor or face the possibility of being held in contempt, but he still refused. Senior Constable Brown also questioned why Vandermey had not told police during an interview he had dropped off the funds raised in Melbourne.
Vandermey said he couldn’t find the walkers on the road between Melbourne and Portland but denied he stole any funds he collected. “I didn’t need it at the time. I had inherited a heap of money,” he said.
Vandermey has a number of prior court appearances, mainly for street offences.
Vandermey said he had been involved with Relay For Life for seven or eight years and had volunteered with primary schools and sporting clubs.
He said the mother of his two daughters walked out when they were toddlers and he raised the girls largely by himself, but he suffered a heart attack in April this year.
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