A children's dance teacher who invented a dying nine-year-old girl and pretended to raise cash to help her complete her bucket list has been spared jail.
Andrew White, 34, persuaded residents to donate hundreds of pounds by claiming his student Nicole Walker was dying of leukaemia.
He urged businesses in Loughborough, Leicestershire, to give money to fulfil Nicole's "dying wish" of going to the Nickelodeon Resort in Florida, USA, uploaded a fake family photograph on a Virgin Money Giving Page and announced her "death" on Facebook on March 22.
He was caught after leading cancer charity CLIC Sargent alerted police to White's enterprise. An investigation later revealed the girl did not exist.
White, from Castle Donington, Leicestershire, admitted fraud by false representation at Loughborough Magistrates Court on June 15. He was handed a two-year conditional discharge, ordered to pay £85 in court costs and a further £20 victim surcharge.
Speaking after the hearing, a spokeswoman from CLIC Sargent, the charity White claimed to be raising funds for, said: "Our local fund-raising team identified some concerns and as a result notified the police. We are satisfied with the conclusion of the case.
"CLIC Sargent's vital work to support children and young people with cancer is funded entirely on public donations.
"Any fraudulent fund-raising activity can damage the public's faith in donating to charities.
"We have many fantastic supporters, including in the Loughborough area, who work very hard to fund-raise on our behalf and we hope local people will continue to support our vital work."
White, who ran Bare Feet Dance and Drama, dreamt up a 12-point bucket list created by Nicole that included the wish to go to Florida.
The dance teacher claimed fictional Nicole dreamed to be "gunged and slimed" at the US resort and would also love to visit Disneyland.
He touted local businesses and people to raise funds for the trip, before asking for cash towards.
Another bucket list dream he wrote in Nicole's name was: "My dance teacher Andrew gets his dream to be a Disney Prince in the parade at Disneyland Paris.
"My cheer-leading, gymnastic and dance friends still run the messy game show party to remember my best friend Jenny I was planning with them to raise money for children with cancer."
The fake post added: "If anything happens to me please do not be sad. I want all my friends and family to be happy forever. I love you all, Nicole (age nine)."
White created an entire family for Nicole, providing regular updates from her "mother", Charlotte, on the supposed fundraising page Nicole's Hearts, Stars and Slimes.
On the Facebook site White, writing as Nicole's mum, said: "I have shown Nicole all the get well messages I received for her.
"She has asked if I could say to everybody she is sorry she could not write individual thank yous to all of you and she hopes you all do not mind but to say one huge thank you to all of you."
Then, on March 22 he wrote: "We are really sorry to have to post that earlier this afternoon Nicole lost her battle with her illness."
He also regularly contacted his local paper to con readers out of their money. In one article he boasted how his dance class sacrificed their own money, which they had put aside for a trip to Disneyland Paris, so that Nicole's dream could come true.
The paper became suspicious after they found the family photo of Nicole with Charlotte and dad Peter appeared on a professional photographer's website.
White also wrote regular updates about Nicole's cancer battle on Facebook, pretending to be from her father. One post read: "Nicole was rushed back into hospital during the weekend as she became very unwell but thankfully it looks like it was a bug she picked up but because of the leukaemia it made it a lot worse."
Another said: "She has just started her second round of treatment. It could get worse or it could get better. It has really been hard. Her friends are upset as well.
"She had hid a list under her pillow. She is a bit sneaky like that. It would mean absolutely everything to her and a dream come true.
"Even though she is sick she is still trying to keep everyone happy and is always smiling.
"Charlotte and myself were asked to attend a meeting with the parents and children in Nicole's cheer-leading and gymnastics class.
"They have been trying raise money so they can perform at Disneyland Paris and that night they handed over a cheque with the money they had raised to go to Paris to help Nicole's dream come true of going to Florida.
"We did not really want to accept it but the parents and children insisted so they have delayed their own dream so that Nicole's dream can come true."
Leicestershire Police believe another appeal White made in 2009 about a nine-year-old girl with cancer called Jenny Howells is also fabricated.
White apologised for conning cash out of well-wishers. In a statement, he said: "I am truly sorry to everybody involved and that I have let down my students and parents as I have never done anything like this before and I am very upset and ashamed of what I did, it has caused me lots of sleeplessness [sic] nights, worry and regrets since it happened as I have worked with lots of charity's before and helped raise money for them."