Serious Fraud Office swoop in on Luis Michael Training, former partner of Sparsholt College
Three men have been arrested as part of an investigation into Luis Michael Training (LMT), a sub-contractor that used to deliver football-based apprenticeships.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) says the individuals were arrested as part of a search operation on four homes and a business property.
A 29 year-old man was arrested in Southport, along with a 51 year-old man in Cardiff and a 52 year-old man in Heywood, Manchester.
All three men have since been interviewed and released without charge on unconditional bail.
The SFO says the search operation involved 52 of its investigators and 20 police officers from the Gwent, South Wales, Greater Manchester and Merseyside police forces.
LMT was a training provider which enrolled, assessed and verified apprenticeships for young people at football clubs such as Leeds, Millwall and Nottingham Forest.
The accusations against the sub-contractor, which was based in Newport and run by former Welsh football international Mark Aizlewood, relate to their work between 2009 and 2011.
An SFO statement reads: “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, who worked as a subcontractor for eight further education colleges including Sparsholt College and South Thames College, are suspected to have made fraudulent claims worth over £1.6 million.
The SFO statement adds: “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.”
A spokesperson for the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) told FE Week: “Although we don’t hold the contractual relationships with Luis Michael Training we do have a duty to protect public funds and learners.
“Since 2010 we have worked with the lead provider who held the contractual relationship to ensure learners were supported and public funds not spent in accordance with the contractual arrangements that the lead provider has with the Agency have been clawed back.”
Sparsholt College held the largest contract with LMT, and said they were unable to make any comment which may prejudice the SFO investigation.
However, a spokesperson for the college told FE Week: “We have been proactive in reporting our concerns to the police and latterly working closely to support SFO enquiries.”
Colleges which delivered training with LMT have been asked to give money back to the SFA.
When asked about Sparsholt College, the SFA spokesperson added: “The Agency has recovered funds from the lead provider.
“We cannot disclose the amount as it is confidential between us and the College.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by FE Week has revealed that the SFA’s Investigation Unit is currently handling 14 live allegations of misuse of funds.
However, only one of these is being considered by the police.