‘Vile and despicable’ fraudsters steal money raised for Air Ambulance charity

Air Ambulance Northern Ireland. (Archive pic)
Air Ambulance Northern Ireland. (Archive pic)

Fraudsters who stole £1,200 that had been raised for Air Ambulance Northern Ireland at a Co Armagh tractor run event have been branded “heinous and heartless thieves with no moral compass.”

That’s the view of Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, Alderman Gareth Wilson, who was among hundreds of people who supported the charity fundraiser in Killylea in October.

Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, Alderman Gareth Wilson.

Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, Alderman Gareth Wilson.

The event raised a total sum of £3,600 to be shared equally among three worthy causes - NI Children’s Hospice, Children’s Heartbeat Trust and Air Ambulance NI.

Last Monday event organisers received what appeared to be a legitimate email from Air Ambulance NI asking if a bank transfer could be arranged as the charity was in need of funds. However, it turned out that the email had been sent by fraudsters.

Condemning the criminals behind the theft as “vile and despicable”, Alderman Wilson said: “A lot of hard work went in to planning and organising the tractor run charity event, which is now in its fourth year. I have nothing but contempt for those who diverted much needed donations away from these legitimate charities.

“Whilst this scam has had a devastating effect on all those involved - event organisers, charities and the public who donated - we should not let these unscrupulous individuals deter us from holding future fundraising events or overshadow the good work that has been undertaken to date to keep these charities afloat so that they can continue to deliver vital services to those in need.”

The DUP man, who confirmed that police are investigating the theft, added: “I would encourage everyone, not just the vulnerable among us, to be extremely vigilant when responding to emails asking for money or transferring funds online because scams are continually evolving and becoming increasingly sophisticated.”

Since his appointment in June 2017, the Lord Mayor has hosted a wide range of fundraising events in support of his chosen charity, Air Ambulance NI.

To date more than £9,500 has been raised for the emergency medical response charity, with more activities planned before his term in office comes to an end.

For advice and information about how to spot and stop a scam log on to www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/scamwiseni