A Newton Abbot conman has been found guilty of swindling thousands of pounds from shoppers all over the West Country by running bogus charity collections.

Jaimie Monteiro recruited teams of unemployed youths to go out with collection buckets in town and city centres all over Devon.

When the authorities tried to stop him, he moved further afield from his base in Newton Abbot to Taunton, Truro and Penzance, claiming to be collecting for bogus charities with names like Save a Heart and Kids at Christmas.

Company director Monteiro thought he had found a way round the strict laws that control public collections and claimed that his bucket-shakers were selling pamphlets rather than seeking donations.

He insisted his company Youth Recruit Ltd was operating like a local version of the Big Issue, providing work for the so-called street vendors who kept half of their takings.

He described the collecting buckets as ’street tills’ and claimed his half share was for accounting services, marketing and management. He made at least £37,000 from the scam.

Monteiro persuaded supermarkets to let his team carry out collections by using the registered number of a youth charity from Paignton on his letterhead but in reality all the money was going to him and his ’workers’.

He made false claims about links to real charities such as Shelter and Meningitis Help both in his A4 pamphlets and while making collections.

Monteiro started Youth Recruit in 2013 but his frauds took place in 2014 and 2015. The full scale is still not known because the money was collected in cash and was never accounted for properly.

An indication of how much was involved is that after just two days of collecting at the Morrisons store in Taunton he sent a thank-you letter saying he had raised £817.

At the height of the scam he was conducting street collections on an almost daily basis, often attracting the attention of police or council officials.

The only concrete evidence of how much Monteiro made was the £37,000 that passed through his bank account during 18 months in 2014 and early 2015 before he was closed down.

Monteiro succeeded in delaying his trial for years by representing himself and repeatedly claiming not to have received court papers which were sent to his home.

He was finally found guilty of fraud at Exeter Crown Court by a jury which had sat through more than two weeks of evidence.

Monteiro, aged 27, of Oaklands Road, Newton Abbot, denied five counts of fraud but was found guilty.

He will be sentenced later alongside former henchman Jordan Fletcher, aged 24, of Bladon Close, Newton Abbot, who admitted fraud at an earlier hearing.

Judge David Evans told Monteiro he will be sent to jail when the pair are sentenced on Friday.

He told him: ‘You are going to prison. Let me make that absolutely clear. The only question is for how long. The sentences will have to follow sentencing guidelines.

‘It seems clear to me looking at the guidelines that the length of your sentence will not be of a length that is suspendable.’

After they reached their verdicts, the jury were told that Monteiro has previous convictions for burglaries at a Subway shop in Newton Abbot and commercial property in Teignmouth.

He received community orders for both offences, including one imposed just one day before he was stopped by police while making an illegal collection in the centre of Exeter.

During the trial Mr David Sapiecha, prosecuting, branded Monteiro’s operation as ’a con and a scam’ and the collections were designed to make donors believe they were giving to charity.

Monteiro told the jury nobody was deceived and that he was providing employment for young people through the legitimate sale of periodicals. He denied ever claiming to be raising cash for charity.