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Fraudsters jailed over soccer scam

Six men took part in 'shameful exploitation of taxpayer'

John Garvey


01635 886628

Fraudsters jailed over soccer scam

A WEST Berkshire man has been jailed for his part in a £5m fake football apprenticeship scam.

At a previous hearing Christopher Martin, aged 53, of Wicksletts Wood, Catmore, admitted participating in the operation that targetted colleges, charities, football clubs and sports associations.

He was arrested last year following an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

Former professional footballers Mark Aizlewood and Paul Sugrue were also found guilty for their roles in the fraudulent scheme.

In total, six men were involved in 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.

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.

On Monday, February 26, Martin was sentenced to five years and three months imprisonment at Southwark Crown Court.

Sentencing the men, His Honour Judge Tomlinson said: “This was a shameful exploitation of taxpayers and colleges.

“You misappropriated eye-watering sums of Government money on the pretence of helping disadvantaged young people.

“You all exploited this sad state of affairs and your involvement was dishonest from the outset.”

SFO general counsel Alun Milford said afterwards: “These men stole public money intended to give young people a start in life – these were cynical crimes for which they have been held to account today.”

Mark Aizlewood was sentenced to six years; Keith Williams was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment; Paul Sugrue was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment; Steven Gooding received a 20-month prison sentence and Jack Harper, 18 months.

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