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Seven Man Utd fans who stole £600 after getting jobs as kiosk workers at Old Trafford have gone free
The sports study students escaped with 12 month conditional discharges to cheers from the public gallery after insisting they had pocketed just £85 each from the scam.
The seven were arrested following a surveillance operation mounted by senior United staff into allegations thousands of pounds went missing during home matches and other sporting events at the ground.
Secret spy cameras installed at the stadium captured the crooked workers looting cash which was paid out by fans for hotdogs and burgers from takeaway kiosks.
Whilst most of the takings went in the till, the culprits stuffed some of the cash down their trousers. Prosecutors claim various sums of money were missing on multiple occasions totalling up to £5,000. The racket was dubbed "skimming off the top" as it is slang for taking cash "off the top" of the daily receipts of a business.
But at Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, Lugman Arogundada, 22, Mwila Bwanga, 20, Olamide Oyawaye, 21, Justino Edmilson, 22, Fliavio Andrade, 22, Anthony Agabaje, 21, and Mustafa Belkhair, 20, were spared jail after Judge Paul Lawton questioned the decision to haul them before crown court – saying it was "remarkable.".
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The judge said of the £2.2bn club could ‘just about afford that’
The judge said of the amount stolen: "Manchester United can just about afford that can't they?”
Manchester United can just about afford that can't they?
Judge Paul Lawton
And he told the group: "You are all very foolish young men. You were all given the opportunity to work at Manchester United Football Ground and most of you come from sporting backgrounds, studying sports science.
"You were all excited to work there and sometimes observe the match and you blew the trust that was given to you by the people who employed you.
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The sports study students escaped with 12 month conditional discharges
"There was an element of trust placed in you but I believe this was more a matter of petty pilfering than a serious abuse of trust.
"You have all let yourselves down – you are bright young men and you have risked blowing your futures. You now have a conviction of dishonesty which will hang over you when applying for sporting jobs. You will all receive a conditional discharge for 12 months and you should all count yourselves very lucky.”
Five of the gang admitted theft whilst two others were convicted after a trial. The seven were linked to around £600 taken when Old Trafford hosted the Super League Grand Final between rugby League clubs Warrington Wolves and Wigan Warriors.
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The court heard Fliavio Andrade, who was team leader at the EK03 kiosk, was the ringleader behind the scam. A peephole camera was installed at that kiosk after bosses noticed the tills were repeatedly down.
After the rugby league match on Saturday October 8 last year, the tills at the kiosk were found to be £382 short. A full stock check revealed more than £200 of food and drink was missing as well.
Prosecuting Timothy Greenald said: "Fliavio Andrade is the team leader and was responsible for six other employees who were responsible for working the tills. They had all worked together previously on events and knew each other fairly well.
The seven were arrested after secret spy cameras were installed at the stadium
"On October 8 2016 at a Rugby League Game cameras had been installed and when staff viewed the footage six of the males were seen taking cash from the tills and putting it into their pockets or down their trousers.
"Two of the men were seen handing cash directly to Mr Andrade and all six are seen handling cash at some point during the shift.
"It cannot be said how much cash was being taken at any one time but the total amount of money amounts to just under £600. The till was down by £382 but some sales were not being rung though the till. It amounted to about £85 worth of cash each."
An earlier hearing was told it is thought various sums of money went missing on other days – including sums of £400 to £600 then others of £2,095, £597 and £1,498.