A dancer who fooled 75 children into thinking they would get to dance at the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games has been jailed for two years.
Stephen Moonesamy, 35, approached three county dance schools - The Sinead Loughnane Academy in Northampton, The Dance Factory in Kettering and the Kilburn School of Dance in Wellingborough - about performing in the ceremony as part of his Red, White and Blue (RWB) Midlands project.
Auditions were held and 25 youngsters from each dance school were selected.
Simon Ash, prosecting at Northampton Crown Court on Tuesday, July 17, said Moonesamy’s case was “unusual”.
He said: “Around December last year and January this year he contacted three dance schools - The Sinead Loughnane Academy in Northampton, the Kilburn School of Dance in Wellingborough and The Dance Factory in Kettering. In each case he said he had been authorised to organise a dance routine for part of the closing ceremony of the Olympics.”
Mr Ash said after the dancers were chosen each dancer paid £60 to their dance school, and Moonesamy received £625 from each dance school - a total of £1,875.
He said a series of rehearsals then took place and the project was publicised widely, with articles in local newspapers - including coverage in the Northamptonshire Telegraph.
Mr Ash said: “Understandably the selected students were desperately excited.”
He read out examples in court of youngsters who had believed they would be performing at the Games.
Mr Ash said one 10-year-old dancer was also a member of the English Vaulting Club and was due to take part in a vaulting event in March.
But it clashed with RWB Project rehearsals and Moonesamy told her if she didn’t come to rehearsal she would lose her place, so she pulled out of the vaulting event.
Another example used by Mr Ash was that of Nicoletta Cremona, 16, a Kilburn School of Dance pupil who was due to have an operation to straighten a curve in her spine.
Mr Ash said Nicoletta was due to have the operation at the start of the summer ready to start sixth form in September, but that would have prevented her taking part in the Games.
As it was “such a good opportunity”, she postponed the surgery until after the Olympics and made arrangements to start sixth form the following September.
Mr Ash said as well as the dancers and three dance schools being fooled, Moonesamy had asked various local businesses and organisations for funding and discounts.
Braunston Reprographics in Northampton had agreed to give him a discount on goods and the Holiday Inn in Northampton, where a mass rehearsal for the project took place, gave every dancer a free goody bag.
Moonesamy, of Lowlands Close, Rectory Farm, Northampton, was arrested after some of the people involved contacted the Olympics organisers Locog to check his authenticity.
He pleaded guilty to eight fraud charges last month.
Sentencing him, Judge Sylvia De Bertodano said he had been “raising and dashing the hopes of more young people in those four months than Simon Cowell”.
She said: “When the children and their families were told on May 4 that there was not and had never been any prospect of dancing at the Olympics one can only imagine their dismay and anger at discovering they had been tricked.
“You only have to think for a moment about what you put those young people through to recognise how cruel and callous this enterprise was.”
Det Supt Nick Downing, of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Podium, which investigated the case along with Northamptonshire Police, said: “Stephen Moonesamy is an individual who callously deceived about 75 youngsters from the Northampton dance community, promising them a place performing at the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games. We are still are unclear what his ultimate motive was, as the financial gain was minimal.
“Children as young as nine were left devastated by the actions of this man, whose fraudulent plan could never succeed. We have worked closely with officers from Northamptonshire Police and the dance schools to provide support to the dancers and their families.”