Clacton couple stole £315,000 donations to terminally-ill children to fund online gambling

The couple stole £315,000 of money that had been donated. Credit: PA

A couple who stole more than £300,000 that had been donated to help children with terminal illnesses have been jailed.

Ruksana Khan and James Donovan set up a charity called Kidz Come First in Clacton in Essex in 2011.Over four years, they stole £315,000 and used the money to pay their household bills and gamble online.

Khan, of Westfield Road, Blackpool, had pleaded guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court in 2021 to defrauding the non-profit organisation over a four-year period from 2011 to 2015.

Donovan, 58, also of Westfield Road, Blackpool, denied three counts of fraud but was found guilty by a jury at the same court in January this year.

Khan, 68, was sentenced to five years and 11 months in prison and Donovan was jailed for three years.

Recorder William Clegg KC said: "It’s difficult to imagine a more wicked fraud than this.

"You have deprived disabled and terminally ill children by defrauding the charity for your own pocket."

The court had heard how Khan ran Kidz Come First from the home she shared with Donovan in Clacton.

They had people collecting cash for them up and down the country under the premise of providing funds to support children with disabilities or terminal illnesses, said police.

In 2017, an police investigation was launched after complaints were made to the Charity Commission.

They found that while the charity did help some families, others had been promised respite holidays, equipment and even a ground floor extension for a disabled wet room that never came to fruition.

Donovan had opened the charity’s bank account, and statements showed that thousands of pounds had been paid into Khan’s personal account.

This money was used for online gambling sites.

Large sums of money were also paid into Donovan’s personal account between 2013 and 2016, at which time money was also paid to gambling sites.

Det Con Claire March said: "This has been a complex investigation. Khan and Donovan have shown no remorse throughout this case.

"Khan set up the charity with a clear motive from the beginning to steal funds for their gambling addictions and lifestyle.

"To steal £315,000 from a children’s charity where the money should have been spent on disabled and terminally ill children for equipment, healthcare and respite holidays is absolutely shocking.

"They have both received the sentences they deserve. Police are in the process of applying for confiscation orders to recoup some of the money stolen."

The charity was dissolved in February 2016 and removed from the charity register the same month.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know