Jamie Vardy lookalike Lee Chapman 'scammed by agent'

  • Published
Jamie Vardy lookalike Lee Chapman with Jamie VardyImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Jamie Vardy lookalike Lee Chapman was invited on to the team coach to celebrate

A Jamie Vardy lookalike said he was left "broke" amid claims his agent scammed him out of appearance fees.

Postman Lee Chapman found fame after he was pulled on to the team coach as Leicester City celebrated their Premier League title win in May 2016.

But he now claims lookalike appearance fees were not paid and blames agent Jamie Austin for the Vardys blocking him on social media

Mr Austin has not answered the BBC's requests for a response.

The morning after the Foxes victory parade, "Chappy" appeared on breakfast TV and pictures of him with goalscorer Vardy featured in national newspapers.

But by August, he was back delivering mail in Leicester.

Image caption,
After his three months in the spotlight, Mr Chapman was back working as a postman in Leicester

Mr Chapman, who is not certain how much he lost, said: "I could've stayed at Royal Mail and got more money.

"I've had to work six days a week non-stop, overtime, you name it, to get back to where I wanted to be."

In emails seen by the BBC, Mr Austin claimed to be co-director and owner of Lookalikes, an agency run by David Beckham impersonator Andy Harmer.

In fact, Mr Austin had been hired to look after the firm's social media - but further emails appear to show he had edited invoices in order to have Mr Chapman's fees paid into a separate account, which he controlled.

Mr Chapman added: "It's the reputation I'm bothered about. I don't really give two monkeys about the money."

Image caption,
Mr Austin is understood to have received about £750 for selling a story about the Vardys blocking Mr Chapman to a national newspaper

The Vardys also blocked Mr Chapman on Twitter, leaving him "heartbroken", and Mr Austin is understood to have sold the story to the Sun for £750.

Mr Chapman admitted he was naive to let Mr Austin have full access to his social media, but said: "When you're a postman and then, all of a sudden, you're dragged into the public eye, you just don't know do you? You don't know nothing."

Following the Sun article, Mr Chapman said he was regularly abused both on and offline.

One tweet read "That Jamie Vardy lookalike needs to die ASAP".

He said he was even threatened while on his delivery round by a man blaming him for Vardy mulling a move to Arsenal.

Image caption,
David Beckham lookalike Andy Harmer and George Best impersonator Mark O'Hare, who helped to uncover the scam

Mr Chapman's concerns grew when he revealed how little he had been paid to fellow Lookalikes employee and George Best impersonator, Mark O'Hare.

He said he feels "violated" by Mr Austin, who is also known as James Austin and Jay Austin.

Mr Austin was convicted in 2008 in his hometown of Weymouth, Dorset, for using his grandparents' identities to commit a fraud totalling tens of thousands of pounds to pay off gambling debts.

He was also jailed for two years in 2012 for a number of other offences, after he was arrested for passing fake notes at Royal Ascot.

Image caption,
Jamie Austin had Mr Chapman's fees paid into an account he controlled, it is claimed

Despite the problems, Mr Chapman said there is little he would change, especially sharing the celebrations with Vardy.

"That was more important to me personally than Leicester winning the league - not many people get to celebrate winning a title with their team," he said.

"That'll stay with me forever. That was one of the highlights of my life."

Mr Harmer said Mr Austin just looked after the social media for his Lookalikes brand and that he was never a co-owner.

He also told the BBC he had no idea of what was going on until Mr O'Hare and Mr Chapman alerted him.

Mr Chapman reported the allegations to Greater Manchester Police, which decided no further investigation will take place at this time, the BBC has been told.

'Glamour not always what it seems'

Analysis by celebrity psychologist Honey Langcaster-James

Image source, Reuters

When you're caught up in a showbiz world, there's so much glitz and glamour it can sometimes mask the true motives of those people who claim to be helping you with your career.

You are propelled into a new world where you don't know the rules of engagement and you are particularly vulnerable to being exploited.

The very people who are around you have a vested interest in making you believe you have a great career ahead of you. That can be extremely attractive to someone who's been living a normal life.

It can be a particular problem in the lookalike industry - when someone looks like someone else, there's an expectation about them, a blurring of boundaries.

But the glamour on the surface isn't always what it seems.

Inside Out is on BBC One in the East Midlands on Monday 27 February at 19:30 GMT.