A GANG of fraudsters has been jailed for ripping off some of the country’s biggest charities in a multi-million pound scam.

Richard Badger, Mark Barclay, Katie Dixon and Christopher Horgan conned organisations including the RSPCA.

They secured mailing contracts for distributing post, but destroyed half of the letters – amounting to more than 175 Post Office cages.

They managed to secure these contracts by falsely claiming they could provide the services for a cheaper rate than Royal Mail. More than 1.3 million mailings and letters were destroyed while the gang lied they had been sent.

At Winchester Crown Court yesterday, Badger, 43, of Firecrest View, Dorcan, Swindon, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for theft and money laundering.

Barclay, 38, of Spine Road East, South Cerney, was sentenced to three years nine months for running a fraudulent business and money laundering, three months for possession of a class A drug, one month for possession of a class B drug and two months for two counts of possession of a section one firearm.

Dixon, 27, of Winterbourne Road, Swindon, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment suspended for two years and 150 hours of unpaid work for running a fraudulent business and money laundering.

Horgan, 48, of Ferndale Road, Swindon, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for money laundering.

All four were banned from being company directors for seven years.

Det Insp Mike Rees, head of the dedicated crime team, said: “This was a complex fraud which targeted organisations that rely on the generosity of members of the public through the mail they send out.

“By intercepting and destroying this mail, these individuals have denied these charities millions of pounds in potential funds which, in turn, would have helped those most in need.

“These fraudsters led extravagant lifestyles off the back of ripping off these charities with trips abroad and buying luxury items.

“We can only really estimate the total financial damage this has caused these charities as it would be impossible to say how much funding they might have received if these items had been posted out as they should.

“We know that the companies paid this fraudulent mailing company more than £685,000 in total but the loss to the charities involved would have run into millions in potential donations.

“This was a callous crime born of out of pure greed and today’s sentence reflects the seriousness of these crimes.”

Anyone wishing to report a crime should call 101.