A scamming husband-and-wife team from Nevada has been found guilty of defrauding eBay customers who shelled out small fortunes for advertised high-end kitchen appliances they never received.
Darin Jerome French and Jennifer Lynn French were convicted last week of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in connection with an online scheme in which the victims paid for what they thought was exclusive kitchenware, Daniel G. Bogden, U.S. attorney for the District of Nevada announced in a Justice Department release.
In 2003, the Frenches set up a website called “Look What We Got,” where they advertised high-end kitchen appliances for sale on eBay. Posing as dealers of the appliances, the couple claimed to sell exclusive appliances at discount prices.
To add legitimacy to their fraud, the couple established fake customer feedback records on eBay by selling inexpensive merchandise. They also used a tactic known as “shill feedback” in which they established numerous user IDs and left positive feedback for themselves, pretending to be other legitimate buyers and sellers.
Customers sent payment to the defendants, via credit card, cashier’s check, or personal check. After providing merchandise to a few initial customers, the defendants failed to deliver any other merchandise to individuals who had ordered and paid for the appliances.
Instead of delivering customers their items, the Frenches went on shopping sprees and purchased luxury items, including a $50,880 Bayliner boat and a Ford F250 pickup truck, and diverted approximately $40,000 to an E-Trade stock trading account. The defendants also used the illicit funds to buy another business that they continued to operate after they closed LWWG.
Approximately 80 people were defrauded and as a result, the Frenches pocketed roughly $1.5 million. Darin French was convicted of 22 counts of mail fraud, 11 counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering. Jennifer French was convicted of 14 counts of mail fraud, six counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering.
The couple is scheduled to be sentenced May 23, 2011, with the possibility of facing up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines on each count.