Football coach conman spared jail

A FORMER Ipswich Town coach who conned players out of thousands of pounds has been spared jail today despite a crown court judge describing his crime as “ugly”.

A FORMER Ipswich Town coach who conned players out of thousands of pounds has been spared jail today despite a crown court judge describing his crime as “ugly”.

Ian Smith, 49, of Great Yeldham, stole nearly £7,000 from Blues academy players Matt Bloomfield and Adem Atay by telling them he was going to invest the cash.

At his sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court today, defence barrister Matthew Gowen said a gambling addiction and the breakdown of Smith's marriage had contributed to his downfall.

He said: “Mr Smith was well liked and well respected but that was a double edged sword when his world started to collapse.

“He used that respect and trust in the wrong way.”

The court heard that Smith told Atey and Bloomfield that he was setting up a franchise and needed them to invest money which he would he return with profit.

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However, Mr Gowen said financial difficulties had caused problems when Smith had come to return the “borrowed” money.

He said Smith had gambled in a bid to pay back the cash but this had landed him in further financial difficulty.

Between May and July 2005 Smith stole £5,900 from Bloomfield and £1,000 from Atey.

He admitted 15 charges of theft at a crown court hearing earlier this year.

Mr Gowen said Smith had walked into a police station in Essex in Autumn 2005 when he realised his problems had got out of control.

He spent some time in a psychiatric hospital but a police investigation was not launched until later when his victims made a complaint to police.

Mr Gowen said prior to the police investigation Smith had paid back £1,100 to Atey and £900 to Bloomfield.

Sentencing Smith, Judge David Goodin said he had been persuaded not to send Smith to prison because of the words of his defence barrister.

He said: “Plainly you were a talented coach and mentor of footballers and, as such, you inevitably earned their trust and confidence but it is there that the ugliness of your offence lies.”

He sentenced Smith to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work and to pay £5,750 in compensation to Mr Bloomfield.

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