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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 May 2007, 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK
Ex football club chairman jailed
John Russell and Mike Lewis
John Russell (l) and Mike Lewis pleaded guilty
The ex-chairman of Exeter City Football Club has been jailed for 21 months for fraudulent trading.

John Russell, 51, from West Yorkshire, and his deputy Michael Lewis, 65, from Swansea, both pleaded guilty to fraud.

Before being appointed chairman in 2002, Russell falsely claimed he had assets which could be used as personal guarantees for the club's debts.

Lewis was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court to 200 hours of community work for playing a lesser part in the fraud.

Russell, of Cannon Hall Close, Brighouse also pleaded guilty to obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception.

Chairman 'broke'

A former Scarborough FC chairman, Russell had claimed to own a hotel, property and businesses.

Paul Dunkels, prosecuting, said: "He was broke. He had no assets, no money and no bank account and certainly had no money to invest in Exeter City."

Russell and Lewis, from Loughor Road, Gorseinon, continued trading and paid themselves generous consultancy fees despite knowing the club was insolvent and unable to repay loans.

The court heard how they moved money from accounts to buy themselves time, cheques were bounced and money earmarked for the club's academy was illegally transferred.

They left the club 4.5m in debt, but the men blamed the previous regime for the club's position.

In sentencing Russell, judge David Ticehurst told him he had betrayed the club's fans and treated it as his own personal domain.

During the pair's time in charge, singer Michael Jackson was made an honorary director of the club, and visited the club's St James Park with Uri Geller, who was appointed vice chairman.

They said they believed they were caught after Uri Geller reported them to the police.

The supporters' trust later took over the club and agreed to pay back 7p in the pound to creditors.



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