Page last updated at 17:49 GMT, Monday, 2 March 2009

Internet auction fraudster jailed

Jason Hart
Hart admitted conspiracy to commit fraud and perjury

A man who faked his own death after conning eBay customers out of 23,500 worth of goods they did not receive has been jailed for two years.

Jason Hart, 33, from Moorside Avenue in Farnworth, Greater Manchester, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and perjury at Bolton Crown Court.

The court heard how he called a local newspaper claiming to be his father, to say his son had died in a house fire.

But Hart was alive and trying to put off customers he had deceived.

The court heard how he took money from at least 28 buyers - but the goods were never delivered.

They included the "sale" of 20 Xbox consoles, worth 5,000, mobile phones, watches, and thousands of pounds paid for tickets to Test matches, the rugby World Cup, Ryder Cup and pop concerts.

The sentencing of Hart sends out a clear signal to sellers who try to defraud buyers
Richard Ambrose, eBay

But when customers rang him he came up with a series of excuses, Alaric Bassano, prosecuting, told the court.

These included that he was in Canada, and that his mother had died and he also referred callers to the fact Jason Hart was dead - and referred them to the article in the local paper, Mr Bassano added.

Hart pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud between September 2006 and April 2007.

He was also convicted of perjury - after telling a court his mother had died.

Jailing Hart for six months for perjury and 18 months for the eBay fraud, both to run consecutively, Mr Justice Everett said the defendant created a "web of deceit" by claiming to be dead.

'Manipulative behaviour'

"You misused this particular article in the local newspaper to print you were dead. I have no doubt you were the person behind that article, it's as plain as anything about this hero which saved his parents from a fire.

"Having had the article printed you used it in a very cynical way to put people off.

"You put people off in that horrible, cynical fashion, showing just how capable you are of manipulative behaviour in a dishonest way."

Hart's former girlfriend, Louise Gregory, previously pleaded guilty to acquiring criminal property after she confessed to accepting a car, a holiday and cash from Hart worth 5,000.

Gregory, 27, also of Farnworth, near Bolton, was sentenced to 150 hours' community service and ordered to pay 500 costs at a previous hearing.

'Abused trust'

Hart was arrested after a number of complaints were made to police from eBay customers who had not received their goods.

EBay worked closely with Greater Manchester Police during the investigation.

Richard Ambrose, head of Trust and Safety for eBay UK, said: "The sentencing of Hart sends out a clear signal to sellers who try to defraud buyers on our site that they won't get away with it.

"We work closely with many law enforcement agencies, like the Greater Manchester Police, to tackle unscrupulous sellers, as these individuals are bad for our buyers and our respectable sellers, and they undermine the trust people have in our site.

"We would strongly recommend that buyers on eBay pay for their item with PayPal, which is offered as a payment option on every listing, because this means that you are covered for the full amount of your purchase on the rare occasion that anything does go wrong."

Pc John Smith, based at Farnworth police station, led the investigation into Hart's scam.

He said: "Over a number of years Hart systematically conned dozens of people out of their hard-earned money.

"He continually abused their trust and took their money. All the while countless customers lost out on presents for Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries.

"Because of his get-rich-quick scam a lot of decent hard-working people have been left heartbroken and out-of-pocket."

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