Duped customers caught up in a massive E-Bay scam were sent parcels with bits of papers and cardboard inside - instead of the X-Box and PlayStation consoles they were expecting.
The bidders had been conned by a £15,000 scam which began in a layby in Ripon and made its way to the victims’ E-Bay accounts via Hong Kong.
A flurry of complaints led police to Ripon men Jamie Orchard, 29, and Daniel Butler, 32, but the link to the Far East remains unsolved.
Following their arrest in March, Orchard, the chief instigator, was charged with fraud and transferring criminal cash. Butler was accused of money-laundering. They admitted the charges and appeared for sentence at York Crown Court on Friday.
Prosecutor Dan Cordey said the plot began in August 2014, when Orchard legitimately bought E-Bay and PayPal accounts from a young woman after arranging to meet her in a layby, where she gave him her password and user name.
Orchard then used these accounts to auction games consoles on E-Bay.
Mr Cordey said the 72 auctions all resulted in purchases and the winning bidders were told they would receive their items in the post.
“The buyers paid by PayPal but received either nothing or a piece of card or paper (inside the package),” said Mr Cordey.
“The envelopes came from Hong Kong. The customers did not receive a refund from Jamie Orchard.”
It was PayPal which lost out after refunding the customers in keeping with its policy.
After being contacted by one of the victims, Orchard, of Whitcliffe Avenue, sent out an email claiming he had been caught up in a scam by Hong Kong-based fraudsters who offered him cheap X-Boxes for sale.
Mr Cordey said that on two dates in August and September 2014, money was paid out of Daniel Butler’s account - used by Orchard - to two named companies in the Far East.
The amount paid into Orchard’s PayPal account from the online auctions was £15,563, of which £13,000 was transferred into Butler’s account. Only 10 of the victims provided police with proof of their losses, which amounted to £2,600.
Mr Cordey said that Butler - a mechanical engineer who is currently winding down an E-Bay brokerage business - suspected the money coined in by Orchard had been obtained illegally, but allowed him to use his account to transfer the cash because his friend had difficulty accessing his own funds.
Barrister Taryn Turner, for Orchard, claimed the cable worker had only made about £2,600 after being “suckered” by crooks in Hong Kong.
Jeremy Hill-Baker, for Butler, said his client had used his expertise to advise Orchard about the legality of buying E-Bay accounts.
Recorder Mr Stubbs QC gave Orchard a six-month suspended jail sentence with 150 hours’ unpaid work and £500 costs.
Butler, of The Shepherdies, North Stainley, was given a 12-month community order with 120 hours’ unpaid work because he had played a lesser role.
He was also made to pay £500 costs.