A debt-ridden soldier from Walsall who conned the Help For Heroes charity has walked free from court after being shown mercy because he had served his country in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ashley White, a Lance Corporal with 22 Signal Regiment, was told he had only avoided an immediate jail term due to his previous service in combat situations.
White, who cheated Help For Heroes out of £2,459.10p, was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and now faces a dishonourable discharge from the army.
Recorder Benjamin Nicholls, sitting at Birmingham Crown Court, also ordered White, of Tasker Street, Walsall, to pay £2,800 in costs.
The 25-year-old serviceman, who was convicted of fraud by a jury at Wolverhampton Crown Court last month, has already arranged to pay back £2,200 to Help For Heroes and will also pay a further £259.10p in compensation.
His trial heard he cheated the charity after selling Help For Heroes merchandise, including stickers, mugs and wristbands, at a pub fundraising event.
Passing sentence, Recorder Nicholls told the Stafford-based soldier: "You have disgraced yourself and you have disgraced your regiment - you have cheated your fellow soldiers who rely on Help For Heroes.
"You have cheated the charity itself and you have cheated members of the public who thought they were giving to a worthy cause.
"The usual sentence for such a breach of trust is a period of 18 weeks in prison."
But the recorder departed from the sentencing guidelines "in the interests of justice" after hearing that White, who joined the Army aged 16, would either be discharged from the Army or given an opportunity to resign.
"You should have reflected in the sentence the fact that you have served your country in combat situations and given your entire adult life in service of your country," the judge told White.
Andrew Mitchinson, defending, had told the court that his client was an enigma. "He has served in Iraq and he has also served in Afghanistan," the barrister said.
"So for him to be sentenced for this particular offence is very difficult for him. He clearly has witnessed things which the rest of us only read about in the newspapers."