Fulham boss Chris Coleman and three football stars lost around £200,000 in a South Tyneside man’s doomed business venture.
Coleman, 36, and three of his players at the time – Andy Melville, Alan Neilson and Lee Clark – are believed to have lost up to £60,000 each in the scheme.
Newcastle Crown Court heard how they provided the start-up capital for a company called Lamont Oliver Communications Ltd in early 2002.
The Newcastle-based firm was to specialise in trading large numbers of mobile telephones, but the court heard how it failed to get off the ground, and the investors received back just a portion of the money they put in.
Directors Stephen Oliver, 36, of Cleadon Towers, South Shields, and Gary Lamont were prosecuted by the Department of Trade and Industry and yesterday admitted failing to provide information to an office holder concerning the insolvency of the firm.
Lamont, 42, of Belle Vue Crescent, Ashbrooke, Sunderland, is understood to be related to Newcastle United player/coach Clark, 33, through marriage.
It is thought Coleman, former Sunderland player Melville, 37, and ex-Newcastle player Neilson, 34, got involved because of their close relationship with Clark. Prosecutor Andrew Finlay told the court: “The company never in fact began to trade and very shortly after, it was wound up.
“It became apparent to the four people who put money into the company that the company wasn’t trading and they were concerned about what was going to happen to their money.
“In fact, they were so concerned in October 2002, they applied for the company’s provisional liquidation.”
The assets of the firm were frozen and it was revealed the company had just £149,078 in its bank account, which was distributed to creditors.
Investigations revealed three large cheques, for £21,000, £20,000 and £10,000, were paid out of the firm’s account and have never been accounted for.
When Lamont and Oliver were asked to explain, they blamed each other and no proper explanation has ever been offered.
Lamont and Oliver, who are now both on incapacity benefit, were each fined £500 and banned from being a company director for two years.
Judge Tony Lancaster told them: “The sentence does not really reflect your criminality, but both of you are on incapacity benefit now.”