Potential England manager Sam Allardyce has told a court a fraudster who conned him out of thousands of pounds was “extremely smart”.
Stephen Ackerman is accused of defrauding the ex-West Ham boss and players by selling them hampers that never arrived.
The 48-year-old, of Loughton, Essex, denies 19 fraud charges with the proceeds totalling more than £60,000.
Snaresbrook Crown Court heard £13,270 was taken from Mr Allardyce.
Speaking via videolink, Mr Allardyce – who is now Sunderland manager but in talks with the Football Association to be the next England coach – said: “I went and chatted away with, obviously, Stephen and… talked about champagne and wine which he said he could get.
“I said he could then deal with Anita, my PA, for the payment of those goods. Then I went off training with the lads.”
He bought six bottles of Laurent Perrier rose champagne and six bottles of Sancerre wine totalling £270, jurors were told. He then became aware of unauthorised fraudulent activity totalling £13,000 over the next few days.
The hampers were promised to contain discounted champagne, Belgian chocolates and Yorkshire crisps. The players bought them as Christmas presents.
Describing the man he met, Mr Allardyce said: “He was extremely smart, very well spoken and he set his stall up exceptionally well.
“There was a very good array of good quality products for sale.
“A good salesman, smart, excellent in terms of how he would sell his goods and how good the value was and obviously they would get delivered to you at a later date.”
The court earlier heard West Ham player liaison officer Tim De’Ath had invited a so-called Mark Kingston to sell hampers to the players at the club’s training ground on 12 December 2014. He had been given his number by former team captain Kevin Nolan.
Mr De’Ath picked Mr Ackerman out in an identity parade but the defence claim he was not the man purporting to be Mr Kingston.
‘No dialling tone’
Prosecutor Richard Milne said Mr Ackerman 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.
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 three days later.
When he phoned on 15 December to chase the goods’ whereabouts, he was told the delivery had been delayed because of “the amount of orders”.
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 had disappeared from the internet by the time he checked it again on 20 December, the court heard.
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”.