Fri, 09 Feb 2018
A WEST Berkshire man will be sentenced at the end of this month for his part in a £5m fake football apprentice scam that targeted colleges, charities, football clubs and sports associations.
Christopher Martin, 53, of Catmore, pleaded guilty to fraud charges in September 2017, following an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
And following the conclusion of a trial this week, former professional footballers Mark Aizlewood and Paul Sugrue were found guilty for their roles in the fraudulent scheme.
In total, six men are due to be sentenced for the scam, which invented fake players in order to claim around £5m of public funds, earmarked by the Skills Funding Agency to create apprenticeships for vulnerable young people.
Approaching further education colleges as a subcontractor, Luis Michael Training Ltd claimed it would provide training services to create football coaching apprenticeships for young people.
According to the SFO, from its launch in 2009 and throughout its operation Luis Michael Training Ltd provided apprentices with little, if any, of the required training to qualify as football coaches and even signed up ‘ghost learners’, stealing identities to create apprentices out of thin air.
SFO director David Green QC said: “These men fraudulently diverted taxpayers’ money away from schemes which were intended to transform young people’s lives.
“Instead, their apprenticeship programme was a sham.”
Local man Martin, of Wicksletts Wood, and Steven Gooding pleaded guilty before the start of the trial last year.
While former Welsh international Mark Aizlewood, 57, former Middlesbrough and Cardiff City star Paul Sugrue, 56, along with another defendant, Keith Williams, from Anglesey, were found guilty following the conclusion of the trial.
Additionally, Jack Harper, 30, of Merseyside, was found guilty of two charges linked to separate attempts to defraud a college.
Targetted colleges lost more than £3.5m to the fraud, causing serious financial hardship and reducing funding available for other school services, classes and courses.
Nearly 150 football clubs, sports associations, and charities were also tricked into providing services to Luis Michael Training, never receiving payment for work provided, hampering their ability to support grassroots community projects and other outreach programmes.
The sentencing will take place at Southwark Crown Court on February 26.