Iron owner Hilton admits serving time for fraud

Glanford Park (Credit: Bill Boaden / Creative Commons)

Scunthorpe United owner David Hilton admitted he served time in prison for 15 counts of fraud, but said these convictions were spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and he had passed the Football Association’s Owners’ and Directors’ test.

Speaking on Monday on the SUFCOfficial podcast in the wake of an investigation by The Athletic sports news site, Hilton said he had served 9 months of a two-year sentence for 15 counts of fraud worth a total of £68,000, which he had since paid back.

The FA’s declaration for club owners and directors does allow them to remain quiet about spent convictions for dishonest acts. However, new rules introduced this summer for Football League clubs have required directors to declare if they have two or more fraud convictions, spent or not, and the FA is considering introducing a similar requirement for non-League clubs such as Scunthorpe.

Scunthorpe currently face a three-day civil trial early next year over their continued use of their Glanford Park stadium amid a dispute between Hilton and former chairman Peter Swann, who still owns the stadium.

The Athletic investigation alleged Nottingham-born Hilton had twice changed his name – from his birth name of David White to David Anderson and then David Hilton – and that as David White he was director of four companies that were dissolved without filing accounts between 2006 and 2012. As David Anderson, two further companies were dissolved, and he was convicted of 15 counts of fraud, cleared of a 16th offence, and started a two-year prison sentence in April 2015.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act considers an offence punished with less than 2 years and six months spent after four years.

On the podcast Hilton said the convictions related to his keeping the proceeds of a council refuse skip brokerage.

“It was completely the wrong decision,” he said. “I’m completely embarrassed by it. But it happened.”

Hilton said he had trained as an electrician and started property companies which failed as a result of the global crash. He said the failures led to the break-up of his relationship, and in 2011 he had attempted suicide.

The decision to keep the money was when he was in that “dark place” he said. “I didn’t really care. I didn’t care about consequences, didn’t really care what happened to me.”

He had run out of money and used the fraudulent proceeds to live, not to fund a flashy lifestyle, he said.

But he said his time in prison allowed him time to reflect, and to quit anti-depressants.

“I was fresh, I was fit, I was healthy of mind. And I worked hard. Everything from that point has been about righting the wrongs and making sure I could make my family proud.”

But he said he was now approaching the dark place again, and although he stopped short of announcing his resignation his words suggested he was considering it.

“I don’t feel like I can overcome anything else. This is leading me down a path that I really don’t want to go. And I’m not prepared to go.”

Hilton’s interview divided opinion on Scunthorpe unofficial fan forum IronBru, with some calling for him to step down and others praising his record with the club.

User IronFromAfar wrote, “Bearing in mind DH did step in to basically save the club , now the best squad n set up for years in a good place to move back up the football ladder …so he has done a little bit of bird ( i know many who have) mislead on occasions but id much rather have him at the helm then the club go under.”

User Siderite wrote, “I’d be more sympathetic to this if he hadn’t lied about his past previously and claimed it was nonsense from trouble causers. Now he can’t fib, it’s easier to be open and honest. I am not writing off that he’s being genuine, but after months of nonsense from him, I am not going to be wholly sympathetic to everything. He’s destroyed trust in himself through his own actions.”