Page last updated at 19:52 GMT, Friday, 25 July 2008 20:52 UK

Hacker admits online shop thefts

Gavin Brent (Pic: Andrew Price)
Brent invested his stolen gains in a saving bond

A man who spotted flaws in an online shop has admitted stealing equipment worth 20,000 from the firm.

Gavin Brent, from Holywell in Flintshire, then added insult to injury by returning the goods, and demanding full refunds, Mold Crown Court heard.

Brent, 24, also defaced entries about the company, Ebuyer, on the web-based encyclopaedia, Wikipedia.

He was sentenced to 12 months custody, suspended for a year, and ordered to take an offenders' training programme.

Prosecutor Myles Wilson told the court that Brent had executed a "sophisticated" fraud.

"The defendant is something of a computer expert and he was able to hack into the company web site and change the value of the orders," explained Mr Wilson.

"He paid only a fraction of the true price on 37 occasions.

"That was not the end of the matter however. The next step was to ask for a full refund. The company records showed that he had paid the full price and they refunded that price."

Ebuyer set up an investigation into the transactions, which led to Brent's arrest.

But he refused to tell police how he had hacked into the company's website, leaving officers the task of tracking down a mammoth paper trail.

"Golden egg"

Andrew McInnes, defending, said Brent fully admitted the dishonesty.

In total, he received electrical items worth 20,300 over a four month period, and netted refunds of 15,000, which he placed in a savings bond.

"He noticed a loophole, a problem with the site, he considered it to be the goose which lay the golden egg," Mr McInnes added.

On entries he wrote on the Wikipedia website, Brent then blamed Ebuyer for its lax security.

His barrister described Brent as a man suffering from depression, who had suffered educational problems at school, and was the main carer for his disabled mother.

Sentencing, Judge Philip Richards said: "You are indeed lucky not to be going straight in to custody. You could not complain if you were."

Brent now faces a financial investigation to see if any of the money he received can be recovered.

He must also attend an employment, training and education course run by crime reduction charity, Nacro.

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