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Online auto sales scammers to serve time

North Carolina man and Mississippi woman collected more than $60,000 for cars they never delivered.

An Ohio federal court on Friday sentenced a pair of Internet fraudsters to more than a year in jail for an online car sales scam involving nearly 30 victims.

Christopher Sean Justin of Fayetteville, N.C., and April Bates of Gulfport, Miss., took in more than $60,000 in the scam over a four-month period that ended in February, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

The two traveled the country, advertising cars for sale on various auto-related Web sites. Once they collected payments, usually cashiers checks, the pair would cash the money and leave town without delivering any vehicles.

It appears Justin had tried to play upon his victims' sympathies. He claimed to be in the military and said he was trying to sell the cars before being shipped overseas, according to the court.

"This case reinforces the fact that people who buy goods over the Internet must exercise the same diligence and caution as they would if purchasing items from someone face-to-face," Gregory Lockhart, United States attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, said in a statement.

Justin and Bates were arrested in February by highway patrol officers near Georgetown, Colo., after the FBI agents issued an arrest warrant. Both later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

Justin has been sentenced to 18 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Bates must serve 15 months in jail, and the two are ordered to repay their victims.