FOUR people have appeared in court charged with conspiracy to commit fraud in relation to the Newport-based charity Life Music Foundation.

Daniel O'Connell, 38, and Nikki O'Connell, 35, both of Ridgeway Park Road, Newport, appeared alongside Clayton Richards, 37, of Ty Pwca Road, Pontnewydd, who founded the charity, and Gareth Williams, 34, of Briary Way, Brackla, Bridgend, at Newport Magistrates Court today.

All four are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud between April 10, 2012, and October 4, 2013, by spending money raised at a dinner held at the Celtic Manor which was intended for the charity.

No pleas have yet been entered.

Daniel O’Connell set up the Life Music Foundation in 2010 to help young people with no financial means to access instruments and receive music tuition.

Last year former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas became patron of the charity and held a dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort in July 2012, attended by musicians, rugby legends and television stars as well as Hollywood actor Mickey Rourke, to help raise funds for the charity.

In November 2012 the Argus reported that Daniel O'Connell was working with Mr Rourke, after becoming an executive producer on his film about Mr Thomas’ life.

The matter was sent straight to Newport Crown Court and the four were released on unconditional bail. They will reappear at Newport Crown Court on December 5.

A statement issued on behalf of Dan O’Connell by his solicitor, Neil Williams, of Rahman Ravelli Solicitors said: “Mr O’Connell is both shocked and upset by the lengthy investigation and subsequent charge, particularly as he, Mr Richards and Mr Williams are all personally out of pocket due to their commitment to the foundation.

“At this stage, it would be inappropriate to discuss publicly the exact details of the case. What I can say, however, is that my client will be mounting a very strong defence against the charge which will show that the accusations have no substance whatsoever.

“It is right to say that I have been served with a summary of the prosecution case today, which Mr O’Connell has welcomed, and which crystallises the extent of the allegations. It is now with a great degree of confidence, having waited for a number of months, that Mr O’Connell and all involved in the case look forward to clearing their names.”