Charity fraudster moves to the Fens after taking money that was supposed to buy equipment for a seriously ill little girl
PUBLISHED: 18:45 25 July 2018
An online charity fraudster has been handed a suspended prison sentence.
Tracey Smith stole money destined for a little girl with multiple serious health conditions, after she befriended the youngster’s mum and set up an online fund raising page, to help out the family.
Smith, 50, who now lives in Badgeney Road, March, was given a 12 month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months, for dishonestly making false representations to make gain for herself or another.
She was ordered to pay £1,000 compensation to the family and carry out 180 hours of unpaid work, following a hearing at Newport Crown Court on the Isle of Wight, on Friday July 13.
Smith told this newspaper tonight: “I was charged with £1,000 because I admitted that I bought things for the campaign out of my own money and then when things got desperate I took the £1,000 to cover what I had spent to pay bill, etc.”
She has always denied knowledge of how a further £3,000 went missing from the account and no charges have been brought.
“There were two other people who had access to the laptop with all bank details on and the police could not prove if one of them had taken money out,” she said.
The fraud came to light after Smith took money that was supposed to buy a special bed for eight year old Katie Baxter, who has multiple health issues including infant Parkinson’s, epilepsy, brain damage, autism and is partially deaf.
Katie’s mum Sue, of the Isle of Wight, said they were featured in their local newspaper, County News, talking about fund raising for a special bed, and were delighted when Smith stepped forward to help in 2014.
Sue said: “She was so caring and convincing.
“Katie is only one of 25 people in the world who has Infantile Parkinson’s but Tracey said her son had it also. I believed her.
“Why would you query a person making something up as serious as that? Looking back I can’t believe I was sucked in. She must have done all the research on the symptoms and everything,
“She preyed on my vulnerability. Katie was so ill. She is the youngest of five children with my partner Dan and when you hit problems like a poorly child, as a family, you are just so pleased that a person is helping”
Smith would message and call Sue, to offer emotional support and to also discuss fund raising.
Sue said: “I didn’t want to get involved in gathering the money so I trusted her to do it. She set up a page and all the funds went her way.
“There was a massive auction, loads of people on the island donated amazing things. The local fire crew donated. All the cheques went straight to Tracey.
“It all seemed legitimate. We must have raised thousands.”
But then another islander offered to hold a charity ball and that is when the pennies started to drop that Tracey was not being transparent.
“Tracey became really aggressive with the charity ball organiser demanding that the money came to her. Alarm bells rang and eventually police were called.”
That was in 2014 and it took a further four years to get the case to court.
In the meantime Smith moved to Cambridgeshire and the Fens where she has family.
Sue said: “I wanted to tell my story to stop another family going through what we have been through. I hate the thought that she might still be fund raising and could do this to other people.”
Luckily, once islanders heard what had happened a fund raising pledge was set up and the special bed Katie so desperately needed, was bought within 12 weeks.
“From all of the money raised by Tracey we never saw a penny. I don’t know how she sleeps at night.”
Smith said: “I did not leave the Isle of Wight with thousands of pounds; I left the Isle of Wight because my father was terminally ill with cancer and myself and my son wanted to spend as much time with him as we could.
“I was not on bail and had only ever been interviewed voluntarily, this can all be proven, my parents paid for the move by paying one month’s deposit and rent for me, this was proven to the judge in court by bank statements and letters.”
She added: “I have evidence to show that I did not demand the money for the ball to be given to me but in actual fact that I had suggested to the organiser the money be paid directly to Katie’s mummy and have messages to verify this
“It is also insinuated that my son is not ill, he has Parkinson’s Disease, non epileptic seizures, Elhers Danlos Syndrome and three weeks ago had a bleed on the brain, this was also proven in court by medical records.”
Smith added: “I know I done wrong and admitted that but I did not touch any more than £1,000 or I would have been charged with that.
“I offered to pay it back and that is what the court set up for me along with the suspended sentence and community service.”