A WOMAN has appeared in court accused of conning dozens of people into giving her money for a charity run she never intended to take part in.
Natalie Stewart, of Cowdray House in Arundel Street, Portsmouth, has been charged with committing 25 counts of fraud in June and July this year for allegedly telling people she was going to join in the Race for Life and convincing them to give her sponsorship money for it.
Thousands of people take part in the Race for Life each year around Southsea to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
During a hearing at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court, prosecutor Alicia Keen said: ‘It is a fraud in a fairly callous situation where she perhaps targeted vulnerable people in order to support her in her charity activity, only to find out that she’s not actually taking part in the run.
‘That is 25 people she has taken money from fraudulently. It is a serious matter and one I believe she could get a custodial sentence for.’
The amounts she took ranged from £2 to £20 for a total of more than £150.
Hugh Pringle, defending, said: ‘The crown’s case us that she has gone to places where elderly people live, predominantly, and convinced them to sponsor her for this charity race.
‘The amount of money was unimportant compared to the nature of the offence and the vulnerability of the people targeted.’
The 26-year-old has not yet entered any pleas.
Mr Pringle told the court that Stewart had been battling drug addiction at the time of her offences, but has since managed to get herself clean through a rehabilitation and detox programme.
Stewart was released on conditional bail. She must stay overnight at her home address and report to the central police station on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
But chairman of the bench Peter Mellor added: ‘Let’s make it absolutely clear, if you break either of your conditions or commit further offences, your feet will not touch the ground on your way into prison.’
She is due back in Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court on January 31 for committal to crown court.