Com­pany di­rec­tor is fac­ing jail

Bangor Mail - - FRONT PAGE - For­mer Wales in­ter­na­tional Mark Ai­zle­wood, 57 (right) and Paul Su­grue, 56, (left)

Ex-Wales foot­baller also in dock:

A FOR­MER Welsh in­ter­na­tional foot­baller and a com­pany di­rec­tor from Anglesey are among six men fac­ing jail af­ter scam­ming £5 mil­lion from schools and col­leges us­ing a bo­gus sports lead­er­ship scheme.

For­mer Wales in­ter­na­tional Mark Ai­zle­wood, 57, and fel­low ex soc­cer pro Paul Su­grue, 56 – whose past clubs in­clude Manch­ester City, Mid­dles­brough and Cardiff City – promised to help strug­gling young­sters gain an NVQ in ac­tiv­ity lead­er­ship.

They told col­leges across the coun­try they would pro­vide full-time train­ing in foot­ball coach­ing as well as of­fer­ing work ex­pe­ri­ence and a £95 weekly stipend to 3,800 stu­dents.

But, in re­al­ity, hun­dreds of the stu­dents on their books didn’t ex­ist, many lived at the op­po­site end of the coun­try from the scheme, while oth­ers were do­ing just two to three hours of study a week.

Last week, Ai­zle­wood was con­victed of one count and Su­grue of two counts of con­spir­acy to com­mit fraud by false rep­re­sen­ta­tion by of­fer­ing the nonex­is­tent ap­pren­tice­ships through their firm Luis Michael Train­ing Ltd at South­wark Crown Court in Lon­don.

Ai­zle­wood was also ac­quit­ted of a se­cond court of con­spir­acy to com­mit fraud by false rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

The pair – along with fel­low di­rec­tors Keith Wil­liams, 45, and Christo­pher Martin, 53 – sub­mit­ted false ac­counts to col­leges to per­suade them to do busi­ness with the firm.

They promised the col­leges it was the per­fect op­por­tu­nity for “NEETs”, or young­sters not in em­ploy­ment, ed­u­ca­tion or train­ing, to gain a qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Wil­liams was also con­victed of two counts of con­spir­acy to com­mit fraud by false rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

Foot­ball coach Jack Harper, 30, was con­victed of fraud and us­ing a false in­stru­ment. He was ac­quit­ted of an­other count of con­spir­acy to com­mit false rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

Martin ad­mit­ted two counts of con­spir­acy to com­mit fraud by false rep­re­sen­ta­tion ahead of trial, along with Stephen Good­ing, 53, who ad­mit­ted one charge.

Judge Michael Tom­lin­son de­scribed the case as “very se­ri­ous” and ad­journed sen­tenc­ing un­til Fe­bru­ary 26.

The com­pany en­rolled suit­able ap­pren­tices to claim money from the col­leges, which in turn re­ceived fund­ing from the Gov­ern­ment-run Learn­ing and Skills Coun­cil (LSC), later re­named the Skills Fund­ing Agency (SFA).

Good­ing and Harper, who were em­ployed in the busi­ness, helped fun­nel new learn­ers into the scheme. Some of the bo­gus stu­dents were sourced from a sum­mer foot­ball camp run by Harper, who se­cretly en­rolled stu­dents to ap­pren­tice­ships with­out their knowl­edge or con­sent.

LM Train­ing even got sixth for­m­ers on work ex­pe­ri­ence to com­plete tests on be­half of learn­ers, to make it seem like they had the min­i­mum level of maths and English com­pe­tency. The work ex­pe­ri­ence stu­dents were told they were just prac­tice pa­pers.

When the scam un­rav­elled, the Skills Fund­ing Agency de­manded its money back, leav­ing large deficits in the bud­gets of many schools.

Ai­zle­wood de­nied any wrong­do­ing, telling the jury he had been pre­oc­cu­pied by his late wife’s spi­ralling men­tal health prob­lems be­fore her sui­cide in June last year.

The for­mer player, who was capped 39 times for his coun­try and made more than 500 ap­pear­ances in the foot­ball league, de­scribed how his wife, Pene­lope, was suf­fer­ing from al­co­hol and drug prob­lems, as well as de­pres­sion.

Ai­zle­wood said: “It just made Luis Michael, in many ways, of no sig­nif­i­cance. I had big­ger bat­tles to fight”

His bar­ris­ter, Nigel Lam­bert QC, asked Ai­zle­wood: “What re­ally was your men­tal at­ti­tude of that time, what you were fo­cus­ing on?” He replied: “On my fam­ily.” Ai­zle­wood, from Aber­dare, Mid Glam­or­gan, Su­grue, from Cardiff, Wil­liams, from Ce­maes Bay, Anglesey, Harper, of South­port, Mersey­side, Martin, from Cat­more, in West Berk­shire, and Good­ing, from of Bridg­wa­ter, Som­er­set, were re­leased on bail.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.