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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Soccer Group Says Vendors Are Rip-Off Artists

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Vendors are running a "commercial bribery scheme" to steal money from the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), the association claims in Federal Court.

Defendants Elmore Sports Group and owner David Elmore, Cartan Tours, iSportsMarketing, and Gant Travel conspired to inflate costs for events and charge outrageous management fees to defraud CONCACAF of millions of dollars, the association says in a 43-page complaint filed Monday.

CONCACAF has 41 international members and is one of six organizations comprising the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and says it manages competitions, provides technical and administrative training courses for soccer clubs, promotes soccer development, and hosts and arranges the month-long Gold Cup tournament, which is held every odd-numbered year.

The association says two of its former executives in 2012 first conspired with Cartan Tours and others to initiate unfair and unlawful business practices designed to enrich themselves at CONCACAF's expense.

"Those practices include maintaining a clandestine kickback-based and parasitic relationship with two of CONCACAF's former executives, Jeffrey Webb and Enrique Sanz, in which Cartan, Webb and Sanz illicitly enriched themselves by raiding CONCACAF coffers without the knowledge of CONCACAF's executive committee or other members of the CONCACAF staff," it claims.

CONCACAF says Cartan and the others inflated rates for travel and logistical support services for CONCACAF events, for which they received a fee.

"There was no request for proposals process, no CONCACAF staff with expertise in travel logistics were involved in the selection or negotiations with Cartan, and no approval from CONCACAF's executive committee was ever obtained," CONCACAF says.

"Instead, Webb and Sanz engaged in their typical modus operandi of obtaining kickbacks from large vendors wishing to do business with CONCACAF, and Cartan was more than happy to oblige them, because defendants acquired an outrageously lucrative arrangement for themselves."

Cartan charged an 18 percent management fee to book flights, which a travel agency would have done for much less, and charged an 18 percent fee for other event management services while its competitors charge much less, CONCACAF says.

"Cartan used CONCACAF as a proverbial cash cow, overinflating charges, overstaffing events, and increasing CONCACAF's logistical expenses because Cartan received an 18 percent management fee on top of every dollar CONCACAF spent," CONCACAF claims.

"Indeed, the expenses of CONCACAF's premier event - the Gold Cup - increased over 100 percent from the 2011 Gold Cup to the 2013 Gold Cup once defendants' scheme was in place."

"This conduct ranged from overrunning cost projections to gerrymandering invoices to outright lies," CONCACAF claims.

CONCACAF says the scheme started when Webb became its president in 2012, and it didn't discover the fraud until it removed Webb and Sanz after Webb was arrested this year and convicted on Dec. 3 on racketeering, fraud and money-laundering charges stemming from similar bribery and kickback schemes involving FIFA events.

"Once Webb and Sanz were no longer at the helm of CONCACAF, it eventually became clear these two corrupt ex-officers similarly infected other vendor relationships with their nefarious self-dealing and kickback schemes, including their improper dealings with Cartan," the complaint reads.

CONCACAF seeks damages, restitution and disgorgement of profits for fraud, conversion, unjust enrichment, fiduciary duty, unfair business practices and conspiracy.

Neither CONCACAF attorney Rollin A. Ransom, Elmore Sports Group nor Cartan Tours could be reached by telephone for comment on Thursday.

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