Man denies defrauding West Ham players over Christmas hampers


A man allegedly lured West Ham players and staff into buying luxury hampers for Christmas which were never delivered, before using their bank card details to spend thousands of pounds, a court heard.

Former manager Sam Allardyce was among 13 people, including England striker Andy Carroll, who allegedly paid out a total of £7,310 to Stephen Ackerman in December 2014, with the promise of goods which were not delivered.

Ackerman, of Loughton, Essex, pleaded not guilty in March and denied six further counts of fraud amounting to approximately £54,730 at Snaresbrook Crown Court, east London, on Monday.

Sporting spectacles and a suit, a bearded Ackerman listened from the dock and took notes as the charges were read out.

The 48-year-old is charged with possessing a chip and Pin processing device "for use in the course of or in connection with a fraud".

He is also accused of making "false representations to others which were and which he knew were or might be untrue or misleading, namely that he or another were authorised to use a bank card of, and/or the name and bank card details" of five people to purchase goods and services.

Ackerman visited West Ham's training ground on December 12 2014 "with all the trappings of a successful businessman", driving a black Range Rover and sporting a silver watch, prosecutor Richard Milne said as he opened the trial.

Under the pseudonym "Mark Kingston", Ackerman allegedly set up a stall to tempt staff and players with the hampers containing Belgian chocolates, Yorkshire crisps and champagne, which were heavily discounted at £60.

He then used the details of five of those who paid for the hampers and cases of champagne by card to further defraud them, taking more than £50,000, the court heard.

Mr Milne said: "The defendant came up with a ruse - a fraud that he perpetrated against or on West Ham employees at their training ground.

"There was a bigger fish to fry. What this defendant wanted was to get hold of bank card details and the Pin numbers of these Premier League employees."

He added: "They were taken in by the trappings of success and were exploited and defrauded by putting in orders both by cash and by card.

"These players, management, employees paid up and they never got their goods, their champagne and their hampers.

"There were no hampers and no champagne for Christmas for the players that year - certainly not from Mark Kingston."

Mr Carroll is alleged to have lost a further £10,500 from his account, while Mr Allardyce, who is in talks with the Football Association about becoming England's next manager, was defrauded £13,000, according to the charge.

Defender James Tomkins lost £30,000 while sums of £750 and £480 were taken using bank card details of full-back Joey O'Brien and head of medical and sports science Stijn Vandenbroucke, the charges allege.

Mr Milne told the 12-strong jury that the ID of the man who attended the ground was the "prime issue" of the case.

The man was described by several witnesses as having an East End accent, while Mr Tomkins said he had a "wonky nose".

Mr Milne told the jury they must decide: "Who was the man claiming to be Mark Kingston? Who was behind the subsequent fraud that started that day?"

Former West Ham players and ex-manager Mr Allardyce are expected to give evidence on Tuesday, when the trial continues.