Accused children's charity conman to fight charges

A MAN accused of falsely collecting cash for a sick children’s charity across the south-west says he has had more media exposure than a Sydney crime network, a court has heard.

Thomas Vandermey, 52, previously of Ardonachie Street, Macarthur, appeared in Warrnambool Magistrates Court yesterday facing eight charges of obtaining property by deception and two charges of attempting to obtain property by deception.

Police allege Mr Vandermey collected between $300 and $400 on behalf of the Make A Wish Foundation but was not registered by the charity to do so. Mr Vandermey represented himself in court. 

He said he couldn’t afford legal representation and did not qualify for legal aid. He said he intended to fight the matter in the County Court where he would qualify for legal aid.

Magistrate Peter Mellas told Mr Vandermey if he pleaded guilty a suspended sentence would be appropriate but he was entitled to take the matter to County Court. 

The risk, however, was that he may be sent to jail if found guilty, Mr Mellas warned.

Mr Vandermey said he would take the risk and he would not have his family further subjected to threats and violence because of the matter.

He said he was sick of the “media beat-up” and the matter had received more media exposure than any Sydney crime network.

Mr Mellas said if he chose to go to the County Court the matter would continue to be in the public eye for at least the next six months.

Police allege that between June and July 2012 Vandermey went to the Condah Greenhills Hotel with a clipboard, a fabricated Make A Wish letterhead and a picture of an ill child. A patron donated $100 and the licensee $50.

It’s alleged that on July 26, Mr Vandermey approached businesses in Port Fairy and received more donations, being filmed on CCTV at the town’s pharmacy.

The next day Vandermey allegedly approached a number of businesses in Warrnambool and on November 15 went to the Cancer Council Victoria offices in Rathdowne Street, Carlton, where he presented a $1000 cheque for money collected for Relay for Life but did not hand over any cash.

Yesterday the court heard that when Mr Vandermey was interviewed by police he said he had registered online to collect on behalf of the charity and had an email confirming this.

Police prosecutor Senior Constable Nathan Brown said this was not the process the Make A Wish Foundation used.

The matter was adjourned to April 17 for a committal mention.

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