West Ham Christmas hamper fraudster jailed for four years

Stephen Ackerman Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Stephen Ackerman was found guilty of 18 counts of fraud in October

A conman who defrauded Premier League footballers out of thousands of pounds has been jailed for four years.

Stephen Ackerman targeted West Ham players and staff including then manager Sam Allardyce and England striker Andy Carroll.

The 48-year-old, of Loughton, Essex, was found guilty at Snaresbrook Crown Court of 18 counts of fraud totalling more than £61,000 in October.

Judge David Radford said Ackerman was "utterly deceitful and dishonest".

Ackerman visited West Ham's east London training ground to sell the club's players and staff luxury Christmas hampers, using the pseudonym Mark Kingston in December 2014.

He took payment using a hand-held chip-and-pin credit card device.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption England striker Andy Carroll was among those who were defrauded

The luxury items never materialised and a few weeks later some of the victims noticed unauthorised payments running into the thousands charged to their bank accounts.

They matter was reported to the police and Ackerman was arrested.

He was caught after search warrants were carried out at addresses linked to him in Essex and Hertfordshire.

Judge Radford said Ackerman had "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 dishonestly is plainly unremitting," he said. "You earn no credit for your remorse, nor any credit for any pleas of guilt."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Former England and West Ham manager Sam Allardyce was one of those target by Ackerman

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."

The court also heard Ackerman had "numerous previous convictions for fraud", with the most recent in 2013.

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