John Whitcombe, 77, ran two shops in March between 2008 and 2009 claiming they were for the NSPCC. He also told the properties landlady he was a former sheriff as he sought to build up a reputation in order to get a reduction in the rent. The father-of-15 left the shops in December 2009 after Fenland District Council began chasing him for unpaid rates. A month later, officers working on a separate investigation discovered a large amount of paperwork relating to different people, property and banks at Whitcombes flat. An investigation was launched and his web of deceit began to unravel. A letter was also found purporting to be from former Cambridgeshire Chief Constable Julie Spence thanking him for his work in the community. Whitcombe, of Primrose Close, March, was charged with eight counts of fraud and attempted fraud. He pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted fraud by false representation in connection to the letter, claiming he worked for a charity and making a false application for housing and council tax benefit on the grounds he volunteered for charity. He was given an eight-month sentence, suspended for a year at Cambridge Crown Court yesterday (Monday). Detective Constable Mark Yendley said: Whitcombe collected donations at the two shops in March claiming he would give the money to charity but instead pocked the cash. He lied so he could benefit from reduced business rates then, when he failed to pay those rates, produced a fake character reference from the chief constable in a bid to fob off the council debt collectors. Whitcombe deceived a number of people in the community with a string of lies and were pleased he has now been brought to justice.