Adam Smith, who currently plays for Alfreton Town, used a “sophisticated plan of deception” while targeting a number of TK Maxx stores. His offending came to light when he was confronted by a suspicious security guard after a seven-week spell in which he bought goods from stores in locations including Chesterfield, Sheffield, Leeds, Harrogate and Manchester.
In total, Smith, who has also played for Chesterfield, Gainsborough Trinity Lincoln City, York City, Wrexham and Halifax Town, admitted fraudulently claiming £22,278.27 from TK Maxx between November 18 and December 22, 2015, Derby Crown Court heard.
The 31-year-old – who made 13 appearances for Trinity from 2008 to 2009 – would spend hundreds of pounds on items on a credit card and then tell the cashier he had paid on the wrong card. He would then be refunded and pay again with a second card, but retain the original receipt which he used to claim the cash back. Sarah Slater, prosecuting, said sometimes that original receipt would be used “two or three times” to illegally claim back money.
The court was told how Smith, who began his footballing career at Chesterfield, playing for the Spireites for seven years, used four credit cards to carry out the transactions and also coerced two other people to fraudulently take goods back for refunds for him.
He was snared when he was confronted at a store in Banbury, Oxfordshire, by a suspicious security guard who was watching him on CCTV. He alerted the police who arrested Smith when they pulled him over on the M42 near Birmingham and discovered a folder containing receipts and clothing tags from a number of TK Maxx stores.
Handing Smith a two-year jail term, suspended for two years, Judge Robert Egbuna said: “My assessment of you is that you think you are someone who can charm your way out of everything.
“But what was going on was a well-devised plan of deceit using four credit cards around different parts of the country.
“This was a sophisticated plan of deception using three other individuals who you brought into your plan. “I have no doubt when you were arrested and interviewed you thought you could charm your way out of the situation.”
Miss Slater said Smith, of Church Street North, Chesterfield, targeted TK Maxx stores across the country including branches in Chesterfield, Sheffield, Leeds, Harrogate, Manchester and Banbury.
She said: “He would buy goods on one credit card and then say to them “sorry that is the wrong card” and get a refund.
He would then pay on a second card but manage to retain the original receipt to claim refunds again from different stores.
“Sometimes he was able to use that original receipt two or three times.
“He would go in himself and also used a female and another male to do that work for him.
“One example is how he bought some Gucci boots for £300, took back a different pair of boots and got a full refund.” Miss Slater said Smith, who signed for Alfreton Town in October last year, had a previous conviction for giving false details to the police after being stopped while driving.
Bob Sastry, defending, said his client committed the offences at a time when his relationship with the mother of his two children, aged 10 and seven, broke down.
Mr Sastry said: “He was under considerable financial strain after no longer being given a full-time contract as a footballer. “He had difficulty moving down the (footballing) ranks and that led to the break-up of his relationship with the mother of his two children. “He now earns £350 per week and has a contract (with Alfreton) until the end of May. “
That is the background to what led him to make the stupid decision to carry out this offending.”