Three Sentenced in eBay Fencing Scam

Two men and one woman are sentenced to prison terms after pleading guilty to defrauding Home Depot and Lowe's of more than $200,000 by selling improperly obtained store cards and merchandise on eBay.

Two men and one woman were sentenced to prison terms Tuesday after pleading guilty to defrauding home improvement giants The Home Depot Inc. and Lowes Companies Inc. of more than $200,000 by selling improperly obtained store cards and merchandise on eBay.

David Oliver, 36, was sentenced to three years, 10 months in prison. Accomplices Mindy Oliver and Marcus Abercrombie were both sentenced to one year, eight months in prison, according to a statement from David E. Nahmias, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

eBay did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Olivers were ordered to pay $229,127 in restitution to the two companies, and Abercrombie was ordered to forfeit over $186,000 to compensate Lowes and Home Depot, according to the statement.

The three were accused of operating a scam at stores in five states beginning in March 2002. The scam involved switching bar codes of high-priced items with those from lower-priced items, allowing them to purchase the expensive items at a reduced price. The three would then return the high-priced items for store credit in the form of store debit cards, and then fence the cards and merchandise purchased with the debit cards on eBay.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read about a similar scam that cost Wal-Mart $1.5 million.

The U.S. Secret Service investigated the case.

eBay, which conducts tens of millions of auctions at any one time, has been found to be a frequent outlet for those hoping to fence stolen wares. In May, the Washington Post reported on the story of Karen Todd, a Census Bureau employee and mother of two who found an Apple iPod and laptop computer that had been burgled from her home for sale in an eBay auction.

eBay policy strictly prohibits the sale of stolen goods on the companys auction network. The company provides law enforcement with records about pending and past listings of sellers suspected of fencing stolen goods, according to information on the eBay Web site.

/zimages/5/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on technologys impact on retail.