A man accused of running a fake charity for his own gain has been sentenced to 21 months in jail.
Christopher Ellingburg, formerly of Harcourt and Kennington, appeared before the Bendigo Magistrates Court on Wednesday.
He pleaded guilty to the charges of obtaining financial gain by deception, theft of property, and criminal damage.
Mr Ellingburg was sentenced to 20 months in prison for the charge of obtaining financial gain by deception and two months for the charges of theft and criminal damage.
He was given a non-parole period of 12 months.
Mr Ellingburg lodged an appeal against the sentence and was released on bail. He will appear before the County Court in Bendigo on April 29.
In her sentencing remarks, Magistrate Sarah Leighfield told the court Mr Ellingburg had a "very serious" criminal history.
She told the court his prior convictions included multiple obtaining financial gain by deception offences in 1989 and in 1990. In 2002, he was sentenced to three years in prison for nine charges relating to deception.
In August 2011, he was convicted of 70 deception charges in South Australia. He received a suspended prison sentence and was placed on a two-year good behaviour bond.
But Magistrate Leighfield noted "almost immediately" after the good behaviour bond was completed Mr Ellingburg re-offended.
Prosecutor Allan Sharp told court last month that between October 1, 2013 and October 12, 2016 Mr Ellingburg acquired $41,000 in donations for terminally ill children under his purported charity, Grace Christian Centres of Australia.
Applications to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission in 2013 and 2014 to register the charity were refused, and it was never authorised in Victoria.
Throughout his offending, Mr Ellingburg also represented himself as a pastor, but he was never accredited.
In 2015, Mr Ellingburg met the father of two young children with the terminal illness Batten disease while he was soliciting donations at the Epsom shopping centre.
The following year, after one of the children had died, the father told Mr Ellingburg he had discovered a trial treatment potentially available overseas.
Mr Ellingburg said he wanted to raise money for the surviving child and led the father to believe he was a pastor with a registered charity.
From this time, Mr Ellingburg displayed images of the man's child and information on his condition to encourage people to donate, and had a website asking for donations to collect $75,000 with details of his bank account.
The family of the ill child received about $800, while a further $50 was identified as being paid to terminally ill children or something of a similar nature.
Defence Counsel Anne-Marie Stephanides told the court last month that Mr Ellingburg poorly managed his charity rather than set it up with the intention to defraud.
Magistrate Leighfield told the court she accepted the case was a matter of deception rather than false representation but that she believed Mr Ellingburg was the "driving force" of the operation.
Mr Ellingburg also pleaded guilty to theft in relation to furniture, whitegoods and other household items stolen in February 2017 from a Kennington home he was renting, as well as damage to the home of $8560.
When police searched Mr Ellingburg's Harcourt home that year they found items stolen from the rental home he previously occupied in Kennington.
Mr Ellingburg and two others were evicted from the house after falling $11,000 in arrears within 18 months.
When the landlord took back possession of her property she found multiple smashed windows, holes in walls, broken doors, carpet ripped up and missing curtains. Most of the furnishings and other items she had supplied were also missing.
Ms Stephanides argued against a prison sentence for the charges because Mr Ellingburg's poor physical and mental health would put him at a greater risk. She provided documents to the court detailing Mr Ellingburg's medical history.
Ms Stephanides said the report from Dandenong Hospital confirmed a number of Mr Ellingburg's conditions, which include morbid obesity, diabetes, cellulitis, and the effects of a stroke in 2013.
A report from Mr Ellingburg's psychologist also detemined he has depression, anxiety and heightened suicidal thoughts.
Ms Stephanides said Mr Ellingburg also experienced significant childhood trauma, which included being abused and witnessing his sister being murdered.
Magistrate Leighfield said the trauma would have had a "lasting affect on his psyche" and it would have "manifested in his poor coping skills".
The Magistrate said she noted in her sentencing Mr Ellingburg's health and experience of trauma. She also acknowledged his guilty plea.
The charges of obtaining financial advantage by deception, theft of property and criminal damage all could have a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, however the magistrates court only has the capability to administer a maximum sentence of two years.
Magistrate Sarah Leighfield determined the court had "sufficient sentencing power" for the charges and sentenced Mr Ellingburg to a total of 21 months in jail.
Mr Ellingburg, who will appeal the sentence, was supported in court by his co-accused Luke Sean Riddick, who sobbed when the sentence was handed down.
Riddick was last year placed on a community corrections order after pleading guilty to negligently dealing with the proceeds of crime, criminal damage and theft.
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