February 26, 2018 / 6:19 PM / 6 months ago

Former professional footballers jailed in UK for apprenticeship scam

LONDON (Reuters) - Two former professional footballers were among a group of six men jailed in Britain on Monday for fraud offences after targeting schools and colleges in a football coaching apprenticeship scam labelled “shameful” by a London judge.

Former Welsh international Mark Aizlewood was sentenced to six years and Paul Sugrue, whose past clubs include Manchester City and Cardiff City, received a seven-year sentence, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) prosecutor said.

The men were among a group convicted at London’s Southwark Crown Court of a 5.0 million pound ($7.0 million) scheme to steal public cash intended to be used to train vulnerable youngsters.

Judge David Tomlinson called the scam a “shameful exploitation” of taxpayers and colleges.

“You misappropriated eye-watering sums of government money on the pretence of helping disadvantaged young people,” he said.

Keith Williams and Jack Harper were sentenced to four years and 18 months respectively for their part in the scheme while Christopher Martin and Steven Gooding, who had pleaded guilty, received sentences of five years and three months and 20 months respectively.

The men ran Luis Michael Training Ltd, a company launched in 2009, which created bogus apprenticeships that allowed them to divert to themselves millions of pounds of public funds earmarked for young people, the SFO said.

The company approached colleges as a subcontractor and claimed it would provide training services to create football coaching apprenticeships for young people.

But most never received the promised qualifications or training, prosecutors said, and the defendants also stole and created identities to cover up the scam.

($1 = 0.7173 pounds)

Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Ken Ferris

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