A HEARTLESS conwoman posed as a charity worker to trick staff at Coventry shops into handing over almost full poppy collection tins in exchange for replacements she had with her.
But Claire Kierczek escaped being jailed despite having a similar conviction on her record and being subject to a suspended prison sentence at the time.
She had denied two charges of fraud, but had been found guilty by Coventry magistrates who committed her to Warwick Crown Court to be sentenced.
Kierczek (32) of Buffery Road, Netherton, Dudley, was given a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years.
She was ordered to take part in a drug rehabilitation programme for six months and made subject to an 8pm to 8am curfew for six months – and fined just £1 for breaching her earlier suspended sentence.
Nicholas Smith, prosecuting, said that in November last year Kierczek turned up at the Asda store in Jubilee Crescent, Coventry, posing as a representative of the Royal British Legion.
She showed the staff a fake identity document, and said she was there to collect the store’s charity boxes.
Kierczek took two collection boxes, one of them with an estimated £200 in it, and left two empty ones in exchange.
Once her scam was realised and the matter was reported to the police, CCTV recordings were seized by officers, from which she was subsequently identified.
But by then she had struck again, this time at the Coventry Trophy Centre in Burnaby Road, Coventry, where she told director Marc Stewart she was there to change the charity box.
He removed the chain from the Warwickshire Air Ambulance box, containing about £50, but became suspicious when Kierczek replaced it with a box for a different charity and asked her what was going on.
She assured him that she worked on behalf of various charities, and would return with the correct replacement – but never did, said Mr Smith.
Kierczek was subject to a 12-month community order imposed by Birmingham magistrates for a similar offence in November 2015 of posing as an employee to steal charity boxes.
Then at Wolverhampton Crown Court in March last year, for converting criminal property by selling a camera which had been stolen in a burglary, she had been given the two-month suspended sentence.
Of the latest offences, which he said were prompted by her heroin use, her barrister Simon Hunka conceded: “That it was mean is absolutely right.”
Recorder Christopher Donnellan QC interjected: “It is mean. It justifies custody, and she’s in breach of orders.
“But if she has a drug problem and it is on-going, I am minded to follow the recommendation in the pre-sentence report. I am going to give her a chance to sort out the heroin problem.”
Sentencing Kierczek and ordering her to pay compensation of £50 to the Air Ambulance and £75 to the British Legion, he told her: “.. It is often those small amounts that make big differences to charities. People who steal from charities in this way undermine confidence in them.
“..This is your last chance, and I hope that you take it.”