Manchester United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was one high-profile victim of an elaborate scam that fleeced the four-time Ballon D’or winner out of a quarter of a million pounds
A travel agent cheated Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo out of nearly £250,000.
The 53-year-old, named in Portugal as Maria Silva, also scammed the football star’s super-agent Jorge Mendes out of more than £14,000 and former Man Utd winger Nani out of more than £1,500.
Her wrongdoing culminated in her getting a four-year suspended prison sentence at a court in Porto, respected Portuguese daily Jornal de Noticias reported on Sunday.
The newspaper revealed dad-of-four Cristiano, 36, was spared having to attend her trial after she made a full confession.
The four-times Ballon D’or winner gave a statement to police after flying to Porto by private jet and meeting up with his lawyer Carlos Osorio de Castro.
The previously-unreported scandal was laid bare by Jornal de Noticias in an expose about greedy Silva’s breach of the trust Cristiano placed in her by giving her his credit card details and pin codes.
The newspaper said the €288,000 she scammed him out of – £245,770 – corresponded to around 200 trips he never made between Portugal and other European countries as well as Europe and Africa and the US.
She reportedly carried out the fraud by getting clients to transfer cash for travel she arranged for them to her personal account instead of the business account of the travel agency she worked for.
She then billed those trips to the accounts of victims like Cristiano Ronaldo, who had given her a ‘virtual’ credit card and pin code, to “fill the hole” in her company’s accounts, the report in Jornal de Noticias said.
The newspaper reported she used the same tactic to rip off the likes of Jorge Mendes, his sports agency Gestifute, Nani and former Portsmouth and Everton footballer Manuel Fernandes.
The fraud cost Fernandes £2,440 and Gestifute £36,000. Silva’s firm Geostar is said to have repaid the fraud victims the money wrongly taken from them and she agreed to pay back monthly compensation to her old employers to avoid going to prison.
Cristiano was targeted between in a three-year period between February 2007 and July 2010 when he was playing for Manchester United first-time round and then Real Madrid following his record £80 million transfer to Spain.
The Portuguese footballer gave the Policia Judiciaria in Porto a statement on June 7 2011 according to Jornal de Noticias.
He is said to have entered the police station via a back door so his presence would go unnoticed.
Maria Silva is understood to have been quizzed by police in October 2013, declining to answer questions put to her by cops but making a full confession in court where she was found guilty of fraud and forgery. It was not made clear how her crimes were uncovered.
The 53-year-old from the northern Portuguese city of Vila Nova de Gaia was convicted of on January 10 2017 by a criminal court in Porto, Jornal de Noticias revealed.
Revealing Cristiano’s former Portugal teammate Simao Sabrosa was among clients who unwittingly transferred cash to her private account instead of a company account as part of her fraud, the paper added: “Afterwards the travel agent had to plug the hole in the firm’s accounts.
“She therefore began to bill those trips to Cristiano Ronaldo, who had an account at Geostar and for practical reasons, handed the agent a virtual credit card and pin code.
“It was a green route to taking money out.” According to the agreement Jornal de Noticias had access to, Maria Silva charged the multi-millionaire for about 200 trips he never made.
“In Geostar’s accounts, CR7, family and friends made countless trips to Bissau, Milan, Lyon, Sao Paulo, Paris, Brussels, Barcelona, Belgrade of Sao Tome, among many other destinations.
“The trips were generally paid through a virtual terminal the travel agent had access to because of her job specifications.
“The woman ended up scamming other VIP clients like Jorge Mendes, Nani and Manuel Fernandes.”
The newspaper revealed Silva suffered from a compulsive spending disorder and went through all the money she defrauded.
She agreed to repay her firm £7,680 as part of the court deal she struck sparing her prison
The fraudster, now said to be working as a cleaner and still compensating her old employers, did not comment in the article.
There was no official reaction from Gestifute, Jorge Mendes, Cristiano Ronaldo or the other fraud victims in the piece.
Ronaldo took a pay cut in order to make his return to Manchester United from Juventus, but is on a staggering £385,000 a week at Old Trafford which makes him the highest-paid player at the club ahead of goalkeeper David De Gea.
The striker avoided prison himself in Spain by admitting tax fraud in January 2019. He was fined almost £16.6 million and given a suspended jail sentence. Gestifute has been approached for comment.