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A trio who conspired together to fleece eBay users worldwide out of around £300,000 in a long-running scam were jailed for a combined total of eight-and-a-half years at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court on Friday. Nicolae Cretanu, 30, and his wife Adriana, 23, a Romanian couple based in east London, conned victims into handing over cash for non-existent goods.

The duo operated using 12 alias to run bogus auctions for approximately two years. Victims were told they had failed to win auctions for anything from non-existent cars to concert tickets before being offered a "second chance" to secure goods by sending cash directly to the gang, who pocketed the dosh without delivering anything but empty promises. George Titar, 23, a Romanian illegal immigrant, was used by the gang as a 'foot-soldier' to pick up their ill-gotten funds from Western Union offices in London. A portion of the loot was sent back to crime bosses in Romania. The scam unravelled after Western Union staff smelled a rat and called in the police, who launched an operation that ultimately led to the arrest of the Cretanus in May.

The Cretanus and Titar pleaded guilty of various deception and money laundering offences at an earlier hearing. Nicolae Cretanu, the gang's ringleader, was sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment over the fraud. His spouse Adriana Cretanu, and their accomplice George Titar, were each jailed for two-and-a-half years, the BBC reports.

Detective Chief Superintendent Nigel Mawer, head of Scotland Yard's specialist economic crime unit, said the £300,000 involved in the case was a tiny proportion an estimated £1bn a year conned from people through wire fraud. ""Don't use money transfer to send money to anybody who you don't know personally," he said. ®

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