Man frauded £60k from ex-servicemen’s charity

Dundee Sheriff Court
Dundee Sheriff Court

Raging veterans have slammed a ‘Walter Mitty character’ who started a charity aimed at supporting wounded veterans - only to scam tens of thousands of pounds from it.

James Reilly (66) launched the Tayforth Veterans Project in Dundee amid a blaze of publicity in 2011 - with TV star Lorraine Kelly doing the honours at the opening.

But just months later he began pocketing cash intended to help injured military personnel.

Today (Thursday) Reilly was told he faces jail as ex-servicemen who raised cash for the charity blasted his crimes.

A group of veterans - some wearing their medals and berets - attended Dundee Sheriff Court to hear Reilly plead guilty to the offences.

The crook then left court with a police escort and refusing to comment as he feared reprisals from the former colleagues he had stolen from.

Former marine Stuart Lavery, chairman of the 45 Commando Veterans group, said: “He is a Walter Mitty character.

“He claims to have been in the Marines, to have served with the SBS (Special Boat Service) - but it isn’t true.

“He’s not entitled to wear the green beret. We gave him thousands of pounds over the years.

“He always wanted it in cash - he would never take a cheque.”

Another outraged veteran said: “He is a very convincing liar. He’s been lying since day one.

“At one point he took thousands - even actively asking for money to be handed over - and used it to buy a BMW 7 series with personal number plates.

“He said it was for the charity.

“He claimed to have done things like chased escaped IRA prisoners and shot them to round them up. It was all a lie.”

Reilly was a project manager and trustee of the charity and entrusted with the safekeeping of money but pocketed £60,000 meant to help former servicemen.

The charity’s stated aim is to support ex-servicemen with mental health, housing, employment, training and benefits issues.

Reilly, of Balmullo, had denied a single charge of embezzling £80,050 from the charity on indictment at Dundee Sheriff Court.

But today he pleaded guilty to stealing the reduced amount of £60,000 between February 24 2012 and October 29 2013.

Sheriff Alastair Brown deferred sentence until next month for social work background reports and released Reilly on bail meantime.

He said: “This is obviously very serious.”

Reilly refused to comment on the case as he left court.

Speaking at the opening of the charity in 2011 he claimed to have ploughed his own cash into the startup.

He said: “We set up the charity and got various people within the community to do things for us - from quiz nights to bingo.

“Once people know what you’re trying to do, they’re only too happy to help and we’ve had a lot of people and companies helping out with goods and services as well.

“We’ll also be looking for whatever funding sources we can access.

“Poppy Scotland has been good to us, as have the Robertson Trust, but with money being tight, it’s taken a bit of time to get funding sorted.”