Ex-West Ham winger Blair Turgott accused of gambling with stolen card
A former Premier League footballer gambled £16,000 at a Mayfair casino using a card stolen from an 85-year-old, a court has heard.
Ex-West Ham United winger Blair Turgott, 23, is accused of withdrawing the cash before exchanging it for chips during a night at the Playboy casino in central London’s Park Lane.
Turgott, who made one first-team appearance for West Ham — the FA Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest in January 2014 — cashed out £16,900 at the end of the night, leaving with a £900 profit, a jury was told.
Prosecutor Kaj Scarsbrook said the card used by Turgott, who is from Bromley in Kent, had earlier been stolen from Peter Dixon by another fraudster posing as a bank employee.
The victim said in a statement that the funds withdrawn from his account were intended for his children’s inheritance.
“I was initially horrified I had been defrauded and feel foolish at handing my card over,” he said.
Turgott appeared in the dock at London’s Southwark Crown Court, where he denied fraud and converting criminal property on the night of Sept. 30, 2016.
The court heard the victim was called by a fraudster earlier that day posing as a Barclays Bank employee, who said he needed to collect Dixon’s debit card so a new one could be issued.
Shortly after, a man in his 20s knocked on his door and Dixon handed over his card.
But Dixon went to his branch the following Monday after his wife, Christine Dixon, 83, became suspicious.
“Their bank told them, perhaps unsurprisingly, this man had absolutely nothing to do with them and had, effectively, stolen the card,” the prosecutor said.
Jurors heard about £17,000 was taken from Dixon’s current account, with CCTV showing Turgott made two £8,000 withdrawals at the Playboy casino.
The prosecutor said at least one other person was involved in the alleged fraud, telling jurors they must decide if Turgott was “being dishonest”.
“Somehow the card and its details ended up in Mr. Turgott’s possession,” Scarsbrook said. “The prosecution say that in itself is suspect, as is using someone else’s card to fund your gambling.”
Turgott rose through the youth ranks at West Ham with loan spells at clubs including Colchester United and Bradford City.
He left West Ham to join Coventry City and has more recently played for Leyton Orient and Bromley.
The court heard he has one previous conviction, having pleaded guilty to careless driving in May 2014.
Giving evidence in court, Turgott, who played for England at youth level, said he earned “very good” money at West Ham.
He told jurors he was on the verge of signing for Bolton Wanderers when news of his arrest broke in January last year.
Turgott denied doing anything dishonest, claiming he was given Dixon’s card and PIN by his Ugandan friend, Ali, who owed him £16,000.
He said he and Ali would regularly go to casinos together, having met through a friend.
“He was a wealthy person. He always had a lot of money on him. He said he was doing a lot of property development in England and Uganda,” he said. “I think he thought I did have a lot of money.”
Turgott said he was a member of a number of London casinos and would regularly buy chips worth thousands of pounds. He told the jury he lent Ali a total of £16,000 to help with a Ugandan property development.
“He wasn’t just a mate who I hung around with at the casino,” Turgott said. “He was a friend to me for a long time. We used to go out and do stuff. Obviously, I trusted him.”
The loan was due to be paid back within two months, Turgott said, but he did not see a penny of the money for up to eight months.
He claimed Ali arranged to meet him outside the casino on Sept. 30, 2016 to repay the debt.
“He gave me the credit card with the name Mr. Dixon on it,” he said.
Turgott said he was “confused”, but was reassured when Ali showed him a WhatsApp conversation, which purported to show Dixon giving permission for the use of his card.
“I understood that was someone he knew,” he said. “As I trusted him, I thought that was genuine.”
Turgott said he withdrew £16,000 and left the casino after an hour before handing back the card to Ali at a restaurant nearby.