Football fraudster conned Shrimps to pay Dolly Blues

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A lottery fraudster took prize draw money from Morecambe Football Club fans and gave it to Lancaster City FC.

Kevin Begley told a court he entered supporters into the Lancaster City lottery draw to give them a better chance of winning.

But Begley failed to tell his customers, or either club, and now has to pay Morecambe FC more than £1,300 in compensation.

Begley, of Maple Avenue, Heysham, paid the subscriptions of 52 members of Morecambe FC’s ‘Goalden Gate Superdraw’ lottery into Lancaster’s ‘Gold Bond Super Draw’ over a six-month period.

Only one customer had agreed to switch.

Begley did not pocket any of the cash himself.

Tamara Markarian, defending, told Lancaster Magistrates Court: “It was a bad judgement call.”

Begley, 43, worked as a lottery agent for Morecambe FC for 10 years until he was sacked in January after the club uncovered the fraud.

Nigel Harrison, prosecuting, said Begley received complaints from customers after Morecambe FC’s lottery draw changed its name and some of its rules in summer 2012.

Begley then approached Jim Johnstone, commercial manager at Lancaster, asking for employment. Mr Johnstone formerly worked for Morecambe FC.

Mr Johnstone told Begley he could find new customers for Lancaster, but made it clear anyone switching over from Morecambe’s lottery should be informed they were now paying Lancaster City.

Mr Johnstone thought it “unusual” when Begley asked him for £25 cash to pay a winner, instead of the usual cheque. He also realised one of the customers on Begley’s round was a Morecambe fan.

In November 2012, Colin Wild, Morecambe FC lottery manager, noticed Begley had not been depositing money into the club’s account as regularly as usual.

Mr Wild spoke to customers who said they had been paying Begley for several weeks, but the club had no records of payment. Spot checks revealed some Morecambe lottery subscriptions had been cancelled without permission.

Begley initially denied doing wrong but later confessed to police, saying he believed the Lancaster draw offered “better prizes”.

Mr Harrison said: “He was motivated by a desire to take up work at Lancaster City and he said he’d been trying to increase customers’ chances of winning.

“But the prizes aren’t the sole motivation for all customers, they also want to support Morecambe.

“When customers won on Lancaster’s lottery he paid them in cash, so they wouldn’t realise what he was doing.

“He benefited by gaining a season ticket from both clubs.”

Judith Threlfall, chief magistrate, told Begley: “You acted very foolishly.

“You have caused harm to the reputation of Morecambe Football Club.”

Begley, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to an electronic tagging order which means he has to stay at home between 10pm and 6am every night for two months.

He also has to pay Morecambe FC £1,372 compensation, to cover both the club’s losses and a percentage of lottery subscriptions they use to fund community work.