The 56-year-old, who has previous convictions for theft and fraud dating back to 1980, showed no emotion as he was told he had traumatised the soldier’s widow Rebecca Rigby.
Gardner, of Medbourne, Leics, who was found guilty on Thursday after an eight-day trial heard he used some of the charity funds to “prop up” his overdrawn bank account.
Although Gardner paid about £4,000 to other charities after high-profile fundraising events, he failed to pay a penny of a further £20,250 donated by the public to help Fusilier Rigby’s young son Jack.
In a victim impact statement Mrs Rigby said she was disgusted and that the proceedings had placed her in a “daunting” emotional place and forced her to relive her attendance at the trial of her husband’s killers.
Mrs Rigby added: “I feel that this matter will draw the eyes of the world upon us again. I feel disgusted about Mr Gardner not making good his promises with regard to my son and abusing my family name.”
Jailing Gardner at Leicester Crown Court, Recorder Helen Malcolm, QC told him: “There has been an impact on every one of those who volunteered to assist you. Not one penny of the sums that you collected has been paid to Jack Rigby.
“Not only was the principal victim particularly vulnerable, there has been trauma to the family, particularly to Rebecca Rigby, putting her through a second trial when she might quite reasonably have been left in peace. I accept all the evidence that you worked very hard. In your favour I accept that you did not set out with the intention to defraud.
“The fact remains that what you did was undoubtedly dishonest. I would say it was indeed despicable.”
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