Three men have been arrested in an investigation into a suspected fraud surrounding football-based apprenticeship schemes financed by the Skills Funding Agency.
Early this morning Serious Fraud Office investigators, together with officers from four police forces (i.e. Gwent, South Wales, Greater Manchester and Merseyside) searched four homes and a business property as part of a probe into the dealings of Luis Michael Training Ltd ("LMT"), a company that was involved in the enrolment, assessment and verification for apprenticeships and NVQ programmes for young people working in community sport, mainly through football clubs and coaching companies.
It is suspected that LMT produced false documentation, including registration papers, progress reviews and coaching examination certificates to falsely show to further education colleges and examining boards that training and apprenticeship placements had been successfully achieved and completed. Through the colleges, LMT received payment for each apprentice enrolled and placed with an employer. The colleges were, in turn, funded through a government scheme overseen by the Skills Funding Agency. It is believed that LMT fraudulently overstated the number of students and apprenticeships that they had placed. The suspected offences include fraudulent trading, false accounting and forgery.
LMT was based in Newport, Gwent but is now defunct. The period being investigated spans 2009 - 2011. It is provisionally estimated that the total suspected fraudulent claims made by LMT to a number of colleges is in excess of £1.6 million.
The business property searched is in Southport. The residential properties searched are in Cardiff (where a 51-year old man was arrested), Chepstow (a 52-year old man) Heywood, Manchester (a 29-year old man) and Southport.
Two of the men arrested have been interviewed and released without charge on unconditional bail. The third is still being interviewed but will similarly be released without charge on unconditional bail.
Notes for editors:
1) The search operation involved over 70 personnel (i.e. 52 SFO investigators and 20 police officers).
2) The case was accepted by the SFO in September 2011 following a referral by Gwent Police who continue on this case as the SFO's police partner.