A HEARTLESS Dudley conwoman posed as a charity worker to trick people into handing over almost-full collection tins in exchange for replacements, a court was told.

Claire Kierczek, of Buffery Road, Netherton, avoided jail despite having a similar conviction on her record and being the subject of a suspended prison sentence at the time.

She denied two charges of fraud but was found guilty by Coventry magistrates who committed her to Warwick Crown Court to be sentenced.

Despite being in breach of a two-month suspended sentence, imposed at Wolverhampton Crown Court last year, 32-year-old Kierczek was given a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years and was ordered to take part in a drug rehabilitation programme for six months.

Dudley News:

She was also made the subject of an 8pm to 8am curfew for six months and was fined just £1 for breaching her earlier suspended sentence.

Nicholas Smith, prosecuting, said Kierczek posed as a representative of the Royal British Legion last November when she turned up at an Asda store in Coventry with a fake identity document and saying she was there to collect the store’s charity boxes.

Kierczek took two collection boxes, one a British Legion box with around £200 in it, and she left two empty ones in exchange.

Once her scam was realised and reported to the police - CCTV recordings were seized by officers, from which she was subsequently identified.

By then, however, she had struck again - at Coventry Trophy Centre in 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 she worked on behalf of various charities and would return with the correct replacement – but never did, said Mr Smith.

He added that at the time 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, she was given a two-month suspended sentence for converting criminal property by selling a camera that had been stolen in a burglary 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.”

Sentencing Kierczek and ordering her to pay compensation of £50 to the Air Ambulance and £75 to the British Legion, Recorder Christopher Donnellan QC told her: “I have made absolutely clear what I think of these offences, I think they are mean.

“People who give to charities in boxes in shops are often people giving small amounts because that is all they can afford to give, people who do not have the means to make large donations or standing orders.

“And it is often those small amounts that make big differences to charities. People who steal from charities in this way undermine confidence in them."

He said the offence justified jail but he would issue a suspended sentence and give Kierczek a chance to sort out her heroin problem - and he told her: "This is your last chance, and I hope that you take it.”