West Ham worker 'duped by Christmas hampers fraudster'
A West Ham employee has told a court he was duped into inviting an alleged conman into the club to sell luxury goods and hampers which never materialised.
Player liaison officer Tim De'Ath arranged for a man who called himself Mark Kingston to set up a stall at the football club's training ground after being given his number by then team captain Kevin Nolan.
Stephen Ackerman, 48, is accused of defrauding former West Ham manager Sam Allardyce and 12 other players and staff, also including England striker Andy Carroll, out of thousands of pounds by selling them Christmas hampers which were never delivered.
Ackerman, of Loughton, Essex, denies 19 charges of fraud, with the alleged proceeds amounting to a total of more than £60,000.
The defence argue that Ackerman, who was picked out by Mr De'Ath in an identity parade, was not the man who purported to be Mark Kingston.
Mr De'Ath told jurors at Snaresbrook Crown Court that many of the players bought discounted hampers and champagne as Christmas presents from Mr Kingston on December 12 2014.
He said: "I ordered three cases of Laurent Perrier champagne and six bottles of Cristal champagne but I never actually paid for anything.
"I think the Cristal champagne was a lot cheaper than what you could get it for in the shops.
"Most people that actually ordered stuff from him paid on their cards using a chip and pin machine.
"A lot of them said they were for Christmas presents so obviously to get them before Christmas."
Ackerman appeared in court wearing a dark suit, white shirt and maroon tie, and took notes throughout the hearing.
Prosecutor Richard Milne said he arrived at the club "with all the trappings of a successful businessman", driving a black Range Rover and sporting a silver watch, before tempting staff and players with heavily discounted hampers containing Belgian chocolates, Yorkshire crisps and champagne.
He then used a chip and pin machine to obtain the details of several of those who paid by card and access their accounts, Mr Milne said.
Mr De'Ath said he was told the goods would be delivered the following Monday, December 15. When he phoned Mr Kingston that day to chase them, he was told the delivery had been delayed because of "the amount of orders".
Mr Kingston said he had spoken to Harrods and Fortnum & Mason.
Mr De'Ath said when he contacted Mr Kingston about the delivery, he was given a number to track the orders, but when he searched for it online "there was no such number".
The website address he was given, www.designerhampers.com, then disappeared from the internet when he checked it on Saturday December 20 .
Mr De'Ath said he tried to contact Mr Kingston again but by then "his phone had then gone as well - there was no dialling tone to the phone ... I couldn't get in contact with him at all".