|EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 434 - November 13, 2002 - ISSN 1539-5065 3 of 4|
The U.S. Attorney's Office charged a Connecticut woman with running an $800,000 scam in which she sold computers through eBay, collected money from her customers, and then failed to provide the customers with the computers.
United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan and Kenneth R. Jones, Inspector in Charge, Northeast Region, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, announced that the U.S. Attorney 's Office has filed a ten-count information, charging Teresa Smith, aka Teresa Iaconi, age 25, of 33 Grandview Court, Farmington, Connecticut, with five counts of mail fraud, and five counts of wire fraud.
Also filed was a plea agreement in which Smith agreed to plead guilty to these charges. The information charges that from April 2001 through October 2002, Smith sold hundreds of computers, through Internet auction Web sites, to individual buyers. For most of this time, Smith was living in Boylston and Worcester, Massachusetts, and was operating out of an office in West Boylston, Massachusetts.
While some of Smith's buyers received the computers they paid for, Smith defrauded many others by requiring them to pay up front and then never providing them with the computers she had promised them, and refusing to refund their payments. When irate buyers confronted Smith over the telephone or by email, she gave them a series of false explanations, excuses, and promises of imminent refunds. However, Smith was unable to refund all of the money she had received, since she had spent much of it on living expenses and to found her own advertising business, which ultimately failed.
Smith used a series of eBay identities to perpetrate her fraud. Each time eBay received customer complaints and suspended her from conducting business on its site, Smith would change to another identity, many of which belonged to her employees or friends. During the course of her fraud scheme, Smith received and spent approximately $800,000 from approximately 300 victims who never received the computers or the refunds that she had promised them.
"This case demonstrates that some people will attempt to hide behind the perceived anonymity of the internet to perpetrate their fraud," U.S. Attorney Sullivan. "Ensuring the integrity of electronic commerce is critical to the U.S. economy. The U.S. Attorney's Office and multiple federal, state and local law enforcement agencies will continue to identify and prosecute those who use the internet to prey on unsuspecting consumers."
If convicted, Smith faces a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison on each count and a $250,000 fine.
The U.S. Attorney's Office thanked the Worcester County District Attorney's Office for referring the case, which was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the West Boylston Police Department. The U.S. Attorney also thanked the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, as well as eBay and PayPal, for cooperating with the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam J. Bookbinder in Sullivan's Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Unit.
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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