Tech Industry

eBay fraudster lands six-year prison term

Judge rejects plea bargain, says Maine man failed to pay back his victims after admitting to bank, mail and wire fraud.

A federal judge in Maine sentenced a man to more than six years in prison for conducting Internet scams on eBay.

U.S. District Judge George Singal rejected on Monday a plea bargain from Charles Stergios, 21, because of the man's failure to attempt to make restitution with his victims, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Halsey Frank, who represented the state of Maine in the case.

Stergios, who has been in jail on related charges since May 2004, admitted in earlier court proceedings that he had defrauded 50 individuals of at least $200,000 in cash and purchased goods through schemes executed over online auction site eBay.

Frank said Stergios actually may have duped some 321 individuals to the tune of $421,000 in ill-begotten profits. Many of the instances of fraud were not discovered until Stergios had already pleaded guilty to the first 50 cases found by the state, he said. The defendant had one previous conviction in Maine related to offline fraud, according to the attorney.

When Stergios first pleaded guilty to the Web-based crimes, he was ordered by the court to try to pay back his victims. However, he continued to defraud people after being informed that the state was investigating his online practices, and tried to disperse his personal assets in an effort to avoid paying back victims, Frank said.

In a truly strange turn of events, Stergios threw a water pitcher at Frank while testimony in the case was being heard last Friday, delaying his sentencing until this week.

"This was a fairly significant case of Internet fraud, and Mr. Stergios was particularly unrepentant in the way he behaved," Frank said. "This sentence was more than we originally asked for, but we feel that it is altogether fair based on the facts."

According to Maine's case against Stergios, the defendant repeatedly wrote counterfeit checks to people from whom he bought items such as jewelry and electronics on eBay. Stergios also took payments for items he advertised on the auction site that he never shipped to the buyers, Frank said. The most expensive transactions made by the defendant were valued at roughly $5,000.

eBay did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment on the conviction.