Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce 'was victim of Christmas hamper conman'

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce is tipped to be named the next England manager this week
Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce is tipped to be named the next England manager this week

A conman ripped off Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce and a host of West Ham players in a £60,000 Christmas hamper scam, a court heard today.

Allardyce, 61, was duped out of £270 after paying for goods including Fortnum & Mason hampers and Harrods champagne while in charge of the Hammers back in December 2014, jurors heard.

He was later scammed out of £13,000 when his bank was raided using the card details used to make the dodgy purchases, it was claimed.

The former Bolton and Newcastle United boss flew home from Sunderland's Austrian tour to hold talks with the FA last Tuesday over becoming the next national team manager.

In what could become the biggest week of his career he is also scheduled to give evidence against alleged fraudster Stephen Ackerman, 48, at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

Ackerman is accused of attending West Ham's Chadwell Heath training ground using the pseudonym 'Mark Kingston' on Friday, December 12, 2014, offering the luxury products.

He then approached a host of players and staff including striker Andy Carroll, 27, who was allegedly stung for £2,500 before his account was raided for a further £10,500, it is said.

Similarly, defender James Tomkins, 27, who joined Crystal Palace in a £10million deal earlier this month, is said to have handed over £750 while £30,000 was subsequently nabbed in unauthorised transactions.

Aaron Cresswell, 26, who signed a one-year contract extension at the start of July tying him to the Hammers for the next five seasons, also paid £180 while Joey O'Brien, 30, is said to have lost £1,950 in total.

Ackerman denies 18 counts of fraud and one of possessing an article for use in fraud relating to the chip and pin device said to have pocketed him £62,040 in total.

Others who appear to have been defrauded include Allardyce's former assistant, and recently departed Blackpool boss, Neil McDonald who lost £60 in undelivered goods.

West Ham Head of Performance Analysis Jamie Osman and Head of Academy Technical and Recruitment Analyst Jamie Benson lost £90 and £180 respectively.

Performance Analysts Joshua Andall and Charlie Radmore are said to have paid £60 and £180 respectively while Head of Medical Sport and Science Stijn Vandenbroucke and First Team Support Analyst Oliver De Gruchy were individually stung for £1,130 and £270.

Ackerman first approached trendy Essex nightspot Club 195 to get in touch with Hammers representatives, it is alleged.

The club, frequented by reality stars and footballers, named its VIP Suite after then-club captain Kevin Nolan, 34, who himself is said to have handed over £920 to the accused conman.

At a meeting the month before, on 18 November 2014, the accused fraudster met with the nightclub's co-owner Scott Cummins.

It is said Mr Cummins then got in touch with Nolan before Ackerman was introduced at the training ground by Player Liason Officer Tim De'Ath.

Prosecutor Richard Milne said: 'In the run up to Christmas, this defendant, say the Crown, came up with a ruse – a fraud – that he perpetrated against or on West Ham football club at their training ground against employees of West Ham football club – from the kit manager, medical staff, the players, the assistant manager and the manager, Sam Allardyce.

'Well, the fraud was very simple.

'He turned up at their training ground with all the trappings of a successful businessman, with a Range Rover, a large shiny silver watch, well dressed.

'He turned up and he defrauded them.

'He took in some cases cash, in many cases their bank cards.

'He had a portable chip and pin machine and he took payment in cash and bank card payment for hampers – and when I say hampers I mean luxury hampers – Fortnum & Mason, Harrods, promising them, guaranteeing them to deliver in time for Christmas.

'Those players and managers and employees paid up and they never got their goods – their champagne and their hampers.'

Allardyce endured a fractious four-year reign at West Ham but secured the signing of England striker Carroll for £17 million from Liverpool.

The frontman bagged a goal and an assist in the club's 2-2 draw against the Carolina Railhawks in the final game of their US tour.

He flew out with the rest of the squad to Austria where they face friendlies against FC Slovacko, Rubin Kazan and Karlsruher SC.

Ackerman, of Hillcroft, Loughton, Essex, denies 18 counts of fraud and one of possessing an article for use in fraud.

The trial continues.