A fraudster who conned Premier League football stars including former England manager Sam Allardyce out of thousands of pounds has been jailed for four years.
Stephen Ackerman targeted West Ham staff – including then-boss Allardyce and England striker Andy Carroll – when he visited the east London club’s training ground to sell them luxury hampers.
The 48-year-old, from Loughton, Essex, was found guilty at Snaresbrook crown court in October of 18 counts of fraud, totalling more than £61,000.
Ackerman used the pseudonym Mark Kingston while selling the goods during a visit to the training ground in December 2014. He took payment from a number of players and staff using a handheld chip-and-pin device.
The luxury items were never delivered and in the following weeks, some of the victims noticed unauthorised payments running into the thousands charged to their bank accounts. They reported the matter to police and Ackerman was arrested. He was caught after search warrants were carried out at addresses linked to him in Essex and Hertfordshire.
Judge David Radford described Ackerman as an “utterly deceitful and dishonest man who has consistently, premeditatedly and shamelessly defrauded others”. He said he was a man with “no scruples whatsoever … telling lie after lie to try to deceive others”.
“Your endemic dishonesty is plainly unremitting,” he said. “You earn no credit for your remorse, nor any credit for any pleads of guilt.”
The judge said many of his victims were Premier League footballers, adding: “This was not simply a fraud involving undelivered Christmas hampers and wine or even simply the fraudulent use of a card chip-and-pin device.
“You used the bank account details perhaps in conjunction with others that you had obtained when you visited the West Ham training ground and … obtained sizeable amounts of money from bank accounts.”
He said Ackerman was introduced to them as a trustworthy salesman. The judge said significant planning had gone into the fraud and described Ackerman as “someone who has got to learn”.
Ackerman had numerous previous convictions for fraud, with the most recent in 2013, prosecutor Samuel Trefgarne told the court.
Defence counsel Charles Royle said Ackerman regretted having the trial and would have pleaded guilty if he had been instructed differently, but the judge said this was “not the most compelling mitigation”.
Ackerman remained composed as he was sentenced and blew a kiss to a woman in the public gallery as he left the dock.