A CONMAN who made more than £1 million selling fake signed football shirts has been jailed for almost six years.

David Rennie sold more than 4,500 shirts, balls and boots he claimed had been autographed by superstars including Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo over the course of nine years.

He told customers he hired a team of people who spent hours waiting outside football training grounds for stars. In reality, the 46-year-old bought replica shirts and balls from shops like Sports Direct before using a Sharpie marker pen to forge the signatures.

The fraud unravelled when Rooney inspected a Manchester United shirt Rennie claimed was autographed by the star. Rooney then signed a declaration stating the signature was not his.

Rennie, 46, from Banbury, Oxfordshire, was found guilty of fraud charges following a four-day trial at Bournemouth Crown Court in January.

On Friday, he was jailed for five years and eight months.

"This was a carefully planned and sophisticated fraud," Judge Peter Crabtree OBE told Rennie/

"You knew that the signatures were false as they had been forged by you. The website was such that your customers believed they were buying shirts and the like with genuine autographs.

"They were shocked and distressed to discover they were fake. The victims run into thousands.

"The income was funding a pleasant lifestyle with regular trips to the United States and you did not pay tax."

Officials from Dorset Trading Standards made a test purchase of a Manchester United shirt 'signed' by Rooney for £150 after receiving complaints about Rennie's online business FA Premier Signings.

They contacted Terry Baker, of A1 Sporting Memorabilia, which represents Rooney. Mr Baker took the fake shirt to the player, who confirmed it was not his signature.

Trading Standards launched an eight-month investigation into Rennie's business and found he had conned thousands of people

Among the victims were a mother who paid £300 for a 'signed' Thierry Henry shirt to cheer up her son after his father died, and a woman who paid £280 for a football signed by 23 Liverpool players for her husband's 40th birthday.

Rennie sold individual shirts 'signed' by Ronaldo or Messi for about £350 while squad shirts could fetch up to £700.

The defendant didn't pay tax on the money he made and spent some of it on annual family holidays to Florida, taking £10,000 spending money with him.

His home will now be repossessed after he failed to meet mortgage repayments.

Neil Martin from Dorset Trading Standards said: "We're pleased with the outcome of the case and very grateful for the assistance that our witnesses have given.

"This was obviously a long-standing fraud which involved thousands of victims not just in this country but worldwide.

"It's very difficult to identify genuine memorabilia and the best advice we can give is always to try and have photographs of the star signing the items.

"Mr Rennie has lost his family and his home and will serve a considerable amount of time in prison.

"We hope this sentence sends a message to other thinking of committing this kind of crime that they won't get away with it."

His estranged wife Clare, 45, pleaded guilty to her part in the con. Her sentence has been adjourned.