|EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 536 - May 13, 2003 - ISSN 1539-5065 1 of 2|
A man suspected of ripping people off on eBay was found dead Thursday morning, an apparent suicide victim. The body of Michael Dreksler, half of a husband/wife team that reportedly scammed eBay users out of $110,000 from January through March of this year, was discovered in the garage of his Colorado residence. His wife, Nancy Dreksler, was not found.
Arizona detectives tracked the suspects Michael and Nancy Dreksler to Colorado, where they discovered Dreksler's body in his car. The Drekslers had obtained the vehicle through fraudulent means, according to Detective Bruce Cornish of the Coconino County (AZ) Sheriff's Office. Michael Dreksler had apparently asphyxiated himself after police began closing in on the couple. Nancy Dreksler was "long gone" when detectives arrived at their residence last Thursday morning.
Det. Cornish has been working on the Dreksler case since March 2003, when a victim contacted him about an eBay seller going by the name of "mylittle1s". According to Cornish, the couple had committed eBay fraud in excess of $100,000 in Nevada the previous year and had later set up residence in Munds Park, Arizona.
The Drekslers are linked to fraud on eBay and ReefCentral.com and have allegedly used aliases "Renee Boseli," "Jonathon and Joanna Myers" and "Mark and Nancy Shae."
According to Det. Cornish, the couple continued to trade on eBay after they had fled to Colorado, where they were using the aliases "Mitch and Nancy Casperella." An eBay User ID suspected of belonging to the couple was still active as of yesterday.
The Drekslers were tracked to Colorado by a tech-savvy friend of a previous victim, Cornish said. According to forum posts we uncovered, the couple reportedly defrauded the adult-Webmaster community of $60,000 in 2002 using the names Mark and Nancy Shae. The forum site publisher, "Gleem," told us there may be another $50,000 in fraud that went unreported. Gleem said that last October, "Nancy" told the community that her husband had passed away from cancer, and community members pitched in to help, donating money and design services.
A Webmaster familiar with the case came across a site called AdultCanvas.com and recognized it as being designed by the Shaes. He contacted the site owners, posing as someone interested in their Web design services wishing to pay with cash sent via FedEx. The couple agreed, and rather than sending money, he provided their address to Det. Cornish in Arizona.
Cornish drove to Westminster, Colorado, with a search warrant and discovered the dead body of Michael Dreksler. He seized 5 computers from the residence, along with fictitious credit cards in the name of Jonathan T. Myers. The landlord told investigators that when Nancy Dreksler rented the house, she told him she worked from home and had a lucrative contract with eBay.
Investigators believe the couple made their living by defrauding people online. The FTC unveiled a crackdown on online auction fraud last month called Operation Bidder Beware. Auction fraud is the single largest category of Internet-related complaints in the FTC's Consumer Sentinel database, which logged more than 51,000 auction complaints in 2002.
eBay has an internally developed application designed to detect early signs of fraud, called FADE (Fraud Automated Detection Engine). eBay said last year when it acquired online payment service PayPal that the auction site would be safer, since the two services could share insights on detecting fraud. The system did not seem to work in the Dreksler case.
For the history of this case, read related stories:
"eBay Fraud Update: Victims Report Losing $110,000," May 07, 2003 http://www.auctionbytes.com/pages/abn/y03/m05/i07/s01
"eBay Fraud Update: 285 Victims Report Losing $60,000," March 14, 2003 http://www.auctionbytes.com/pages/abn/y03/m03/i14/s01
"eBay Fiddles While Users Get Burned by Fraud," March 12, 2003 http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y03/m03/i12/s01
"eBay's Fraud Detection System Asleep at the Wheel?," March 7, 2003 http://www.auctionbytes.com/pages/abn/y03/m03/i07/s03
And visit the AuctionBytes Fraud Resource page at http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/pages/fraud for more information.
About the author:
Ina and David Steiner are publishers of EcommerceBytes.com and have been writing about ecommerce since 1999.
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