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 United winger Nani out of more than £1,500.
Her wrongdoing led to her getting a four-year suspended prison sentence at a court in Porto, respected Portuguese daily Jornal de Noticias reported on Sunday.
After she had made a full confession, father-of-four Cristiano was spared from her trial.
The five-time 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.
The fraud was carried out by her arranging for clients to transfer cash to her personal account, instead of to the business account of the travel agency that she worked for.
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She then billed those trips to the accounts of victims like 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.
According to the newspaper, she used the same strategy to extort Mendes, his sports agency Gestifute and Nani, as well as former Everton and Portsmouth footballer Manuel Fernandes.
The fraud cost Fernandes £2,440 and Gestifute £36,000.
Silva’s Geostar firm is reported to have repaid fraud victims the money that was wrongly taken from them. Silva also agreed to repay monthly compensation to her employers to avoid going into prison.
Cristiano was targeted in a three-year period between February 2007 and July 2010 when he was playing for Manchester United the first-time round and then Real Madrid following his record £80million transfer to Spain.
The Portuguese footballer gave the Policia Judiciaria in Porto a statement on June 7, 2011, according to Jornal de Noticias.
According to Jornal de Noticias, he is believed to have entered the station through a backdoor so that his presence would be unnoticed.
Silva was believed to be being quizzed by police on October 2013. She declined to answer any questions but made a complete confession in court. She was found guilty of fraud, forgery and embezzlement. It wasn’t clear how her crimes were revealed.
The 53-year-old, from the northern Portuguese city of Vila Nova de Gaia, was convicted 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, who is believed to still be working as cleaner and compensating her old employers for their losses, didn’t comment on the article.
Gestifute Mendes, Ronaldo, and other victims of fraud did not respond to the article.
Ronaldo took a pay cut in order to make his return to 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.
Gestifute has been contacted for comment.