Last month, emails were received by some people in the hockey world from “Coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov.” You might know him as the man who was behind the bench for Russia during the 2014 Olympics and is now the head coach for Ak Bars Kazan of the KHL.
The man claiming to be Bilyaletdinov said he was looking for new recruits and to let them know if they were interested:
Either the spammers are getting more sophisticated or things are getting really dire and desperate in the KHL... pic.twitter.com/2FI1BfDYLH
— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) July 22, 2014
So "Zinetula Bilyaletdinov" asked for my profile. I've sent him my beer league hockey stats. If this is the real coach of a KHL team...
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) July 22, 2014
Spam? Sure. Why would a professional coach of Bilyaletdinov's stature email random people around the world looking for players when Ak Bars is a team with money? But some agents and players took the inquiry seriously and began to communicate with the fraudster. Eventually, the KHL side began receiving follow up messages about already signed contracts. That’s when they took the matter much more seriously and on Friday they released a statement.
From Ak Bars (Google translated):
In the second half of July this year in the hockey club "Ak Bars" began to address many hockey agents in connection with the receipt of letters from the destination firstname.lastname@example.org , who claimed to be the head coach of the hockey club "Ak Bars" Zinetula Bilyaletdinov and requests help with search forwards for your team.
Until recently, these messages were considered by us no more than a curiosity and a bad joke. However, in the last days of the e-mail began to come to the club signed contracts (in English and Russian) with a number of North American players. Attention is drawn to the contents of the Compilation of contracts in Russian with a lot of factual errors.
The Ak Bars release also noted that any contracts signed between players and "Bilyaletdinov" are obviously not legally binding. Whoever was behind this scam is a resident of the West African country of Benin.
No word on if any personal information was given up during the communication between the fraudster and players who signed contracts.
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