2nd March 2021

Football urged to act over US visa fraud

Stephen Griffin, former CEO of Legacy Global Sports, has urged football’s governing bodies to act after former Executives of subsidiary Global Premier Soccer (GPS) pleaded guilty to a US visa fraud scheme. Legacy Global Sports was a sports management company focussing mainly on US youth sports, including organising travel services to tournaments. GPS was its youth soccer subsidiary that built up a network of clubs, and was the official North American partner of Bayern Munich.

Earlier this month Justin Capell, the former COO of GPS, pleaded guilty to conspiring to submit fraudulent visa petitions on behalf of at least seven US soccer teams in order to secure visas for foreign coaching staff. In May 2020 Gavin MacPhee, a Scottish football coach and former GPS employee, pleaded guilty to destroying evidence in connection to the case. 

‘Three more co-conspirators have been identified and I believe more indictments are on the way’, writes Griffin (pictured) in an Open Letter to FIFA and US Soccer. ‘It is time for the governing bodies to step up and take action. They can remain silent and it will likely become another black-eye for the industry, or… they can take action and affect change. Positive change.’

US Department of Justice (DoJ) statements referenced above outline that from ‘at least’ 2016 to October 2019, US immigration visas were obtained under false pretences for financial benefit. Both the DoJ and Griffin outlines that scripts were distributed to applicants in order to instruct them on how to respond to questions from US officials. 

‘Even when coaches’ visas expired, some remained in the country’, continues Griffin’s Open Letter. ‘Some were paid either in cash, from a UK-based company or through other employees’ paychecks’. GPS did have a UK subsidiary which appears to no longer be operational, however it is unknown if it was involved. 

Griffin also alleges that UEFA and other coaching credentials were misrepresented as part of the scheme, including forgery of coaching cards. A former GPS Coach, Bogdan Botezatu, has been arrested in Canada on charges of sexual assault, reports Soccer Today. In addition, Griffin alleges that former GPS employees directed a fraudulent vaccination and immunisation scheme for coaches from foreign countries.

Partly as a result of the above, a bankruptcy petition was filed in May 2020 against Legacy Global Sports, which is in the process of being liquidated. It is understood that over US$30 million is owed to creditors. 

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