Friday 21 July 2017

Sam Allaradyce conned out of thousands of pounds by 'extremely smart' salesman, court hears

Sam Allardyce
Sam Allardyce

Jemma Crew and Scott D'Arcy

Potential England manager Sam Allardyce described a fraudster who conned him and other West Ham staff out of thousands of pounds "extremely smart" and a "good salesman", a court heard.

Stephen Ackerman, 48, is accused of defrauding ex-West Ham manager Mr Allardyce and 12 other players and staff, including England striker Andy Carroll, out of thousands of pounds by selling them hampers which were never delivered in December 2014.

Ackerman, of Loughton, Essex, denies 18 fraud charges, with the proceeds amounting to a total of around £61,560.

Mr Allardyce, who is in talks with the Football Association about becoming England's next manager, is said to have lost £13,270 in the alleged scam.

Appearing via videolink, wearing a black polo shirt, the Sunderland manager said: "I went and chatted away with, obviously, Stephen and ... talked about champagne and wine which he said he could get.

"I said he could then deal with Anita, my PA, for the payment of those goods.

"Then I went off training with the lads."

A favourite to become England boss, Mr Allardyce purchased six bottles of Laurent Perrier rose champagne and six bottles of Sancerre wine, totalling £270, Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London heard.

He then became aware of unauthorised fraudulent activity totalling £13,000 over the next few days.

Describing the man he met on December 12, who was within "touching distance", Mr Allardyce said: "He was extremely smart, very well spoken and he set his stall up exceptionally well.

"There was a very good array of good quality products for sale.

"A good salesman, smart, excellent in terms of how he would sell his goods and how good the value was and obviously they would get delivered to you at a later date."

Ackerman appeared at the court in east London on Tuesday wearing a dark suit and maroon tie, and taking notes throughout.

He is accused of using the alias "Mark Kingston", and setting up a stall to tempt West Ham staff and players with the hampers containing Belgian chocolates, Yorkshire crisps and champagne, which were heavily discounted at £60.

He then allegedly used a chip and Pin machine to obtain the details of several of those who paid by card and access their accounts.

The defence argue that Ackerman, who was picked out by a witness in an identity parade, was not the man who purported to be Mark Kingston.

Mr Allardyce said he received a call from his bank about unauthorised charges on December 16.

"I had a phone call from my bank asking had I authorised a transaction for £1,272 from Harrods and I said I hadn't so obviously I had provided the bank with the information that I had not authorised any of those transactions.

"It was only at a later date that (I realised) so many of those transactions had gone within one day."

In cross-examination, when asked by defence counsel Michael Gumulka if he had "mixed up" the name of the man at the training ground, purporting to be Mr Kingston, with that of the defendant, Mr Allardyce replied: "May have done."

The judge directed the jury they must find Ackerman not guilty of count 17 as the club's head of medical and sport science, Stijn Vandenbroucke, said in his evidence he had made a "mistake" in reporting that his card had been defrauded by £480.

Earlier, a West Ham employee told a court how he invited a "Mr Kingston" into the club after a recommendation from then team captain Kevin Nolan, who had been passed his name by a third party.

Tim De'Ath, the club's player liaison officer, arranged for Mr Kingston to set up a stall at the club's training ground.

Mr De'Ath, who has been at the club for around nine years, told jurors Mr Kingston had claimed he had previously visited Chelsea Football Club and wanted to visit others.

He said he ordered cases of champagne, which he did not pay for at the time, and when he later phoned Mr Kingston that day to chase them, he was told the delivery had been delayed because of "the amount of orders".

Days later, he found a tracking number he was given did not exist, the phone number no longer worked and a website had been taken offline.

Mr De'Ath later picked out Ackerman in a police identity parade.

Press Association

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