Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Conway Announces Guilty Plea in Ebay Scam
Attorney General Jack Conway today announced the guilty plea and sentencing of Erica L. McGinn, formerly of North Bend, Ne., in connection with her failure to deliver a Lexus automobile that she sold through Ebay for $36,100 to a Prospect, Ky. man, in January 2008. The defendant did not own or have possession of the vehicle at the time of the transaction.
Investigators charged McGinn with one count each of theft by failure to make required disposition of property over $300, a class D felony, and unlawful access to a computer network in the first degree, a class C felony. She faced up to 10 years in prison.
On May 20, 2009, McGinn pled guilty to both charges and was sentenced to three years on both counts. Both sentences will run concurrent, meaning she will serve three years in prison. McGinn will also be responsible for paying restitution to the victim upon her release from prison.
The Lexus automobile was listed for sale on the Internet auction website, Ebay. McGinn sold the Lexus to the victim, who wired the purchase price to complete the transaction. When the victim arrived in Omaha to meet McGinn and take possession of the Lexus, McGinn did not meet him at the airport as promised, and he was unable to locate the defendant at the address she provided. In fact, McGinn never owned a Lexus; she merely placed a photo of one on Ebay.
Investigators from the Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division utilized telephone and bank records while working with the Council Bluffs, Iowa Police Department and Ebay to locate McGinn in Jacksonville, NC. She was subsequently arrested in North Carolina on an outstanding auto-theft charge in Iowa. Although investigated by the Attorney General’s office, the case was prosecuted by Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Stengel’s office.
Tips For Purchasing Items Through Internet Auctions
The Federal Trade Commission offers the following advice about paying for items purchased through an Internet auction:
Don’t pay for items by wire transfer. Wire transfers can be useful when you want to send funds to someone you know or trust, but they are not appropriate when you are doing business with a stranger. If you wire money to buy an item from an Internet auction site, either through a money transmitter or directly to someone’s bank account, and something goes wrong, it is very likely that you will lose your payment and have no recourse. Be suspicious of sellers who insist on cash wire transfers as the only form of payment they will accept. Ask to use another method of payment. If the seller insists on a cash wire transfer, it’s wise to call off the transaction. The seller’s insistence on a wire transfer is a signal that you will probably lose your money and never receive your item. In fact, to protect buyers and sellers, some auction sites now prohibit the use of wire transfers. Most cash wire transfer companies also warn consumers not to use their services to buy merchandise from sellers they don’t know personally.
Successful bidders have many payment options to choose from when using Internet auction sites. Credit cards and online payment services (they often accept credit card payments) are safest. Other options include debit cards, personal checks, cashier’s checks, money orders, or escrow services. Some sellers limit the types of payment they accept. Most reputable sellers will post that information on their auction listings.
As a rule, credit cards offer buyers the best protection. Online payment services offer some protections; look for them in the terms and conditions section of their websites. High volume sellers often accept credit cards directly, but don’t count on many small-scale sellers to send an item until they’ve received your cashier’s check or money order.
Additional consumer protection tips are available on the Office of the Attorney General’s website at http://ag.ky.gov/consumers.htm