A FRAUDSTER who posed as a soldier to deceive people into donating money, has been jailed for three-and-a-half years following a British Transport Police investigation (BTP).

Liam John O’Brien dressed as a military officer and conned members of the public into thinking they were donating money to Help for Heroes, but this money never reached the charity.

O’Brien, 32, of no fixed abode, had never served in the military but used the disguise to defraud the public of thousands of pounds by convincing them it would be donated to support wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women. He also obtained employment opportunities with false details on his CV.

The BTP investigation began on Monday, April 28 2014, when a ticket inspector at Chippenham railway station noticed O’Brien wearing a military uniform and producing a fake free travel pass purporting to be from the Department for Transport.

He was initially arrested by BTP officers on May 31, 2014, on suspicion of fraud and released on bail while officers conducted a complex investigation.

PC Paul Stanley and DS Lisa Jones at BTP Bristol liaised with the Department for Transport, First Great Western, Wiltshire Police and military organisations to establish the scale of O’Brien’s offending.

O’Brien’s then home address at Danvers Mead, Chippenham, was searched and data from computers, financial documents and credit cards were seized as part of the investigation.

While the investigation was ongoing, O’Brien failed to answer bail and disappeared. PC Stanley worked with Wiltshire Police to track him down, only to find he had again taken to wearing military uniform and fraudulently collecting money.

On Tuesday, November 4 2014, PC Kelly Millar spotted O’Brien travelling on a train and arrested him.

He was interviewed and charged with seven counts of fraud by representation, one count of handling stolen goods, one count of possession and control of articles for use in fraud and three counts of possession and use of identity documents with intent.

At Swindon Crown Court on Thursday, January 15 , he was sentenced to a total of three-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to all the charges.

Supt Gill Murray said: “This was a great display of team work, drive and determination from all concerned, with officers going to great lengths to ensure O’Brien was brought to justice.”

Jo Brookes, Income protection officer at Help for Heroes said: “O’Brien pretended to be a serving soldier and deceived the public into thinking they were making donations which would help our wounded.

“Instead he was cashing in on their goodwill and using the money for his own personal gain. Our anti-fraud measures helped police catch him quickly and we're delighted he's behind bars"