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eBay scammer gets four years

Porridge for under-par golf kit

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The leader of a UK-based gang who made millions selling counterfeit luxury golf kit and other knock-off goods through auction site eBay has been jailed for four years.

Gary Bellchambers and six others ran what is reckoned to be the biggest ever such scam between June 2003 and March 2008. Their fraud was eventually rumbled by a trading standards team at Havering Council, who were put on the trail of the fraudsters by pensioner Christine Manz.

The council team worked with eBay to identify 96,000 bogus transactions including golf clubs, clothing and forged Qantas business class lounge pass cards. The crooks supplied cheap knock-off imitations in place of the promised premium quality kit from US manufacturer Callaway Golf.

Bellchambers, 45, of Rainham, who admitted masterminding the scheme, pleaded guilty to fraud along with co-conspirators Keith Thomas, 49, from Rainham, and Chris Moughton, 56, from Blackpool. Four other suspects in the case were found guilty in a trial last December.

Roy Cottee, 65, and his wife Kay, of Rainham, Essex; Helen Wilson, 28, of Hertford, and Sharron Williams, 48, of West Wickham, Kent joined their three accomplices in the dock for a sentencing hearing at Snaresbrook Crown Court in London on Thursday.

Ringleader Bellchambers was jailed for four years and three months, with a recommendation to spend at least half that time behind bars. Thomas, the scam's second in command, was sentenced to 16 months in jail, with an order to serve half in custody.

Roy and Kay Cottee were also convicted of conspiracy to distribute Qantas business class lounge cards. Roy Cottee was jailed for 12 months while his wife was handed down a 300 hour community service order.

The other three members of the conspiracy received a combination of suspended sentence and community service orders.

In a statement, eBay UK welcomed the sentences and explained the modus operandi of the crooks. "Bellchambers and his gang of felons used an international network of criminals to open and maintain eBay accounts using a variety of false documentation, bank, credit card and contact details.

"The case which secured today’s convictions was supported by eBay's Fraud Investigation Team and reinforces eBay’s ongoing commitment to fighting counterfeits."

eBay’s Fraud Investigation Team worked with Havering Trading Standards for over three years to make sure Bellchambers and his accomplices were brought to justice. Investigators supplied information from suspect eBay and PayPal accounts to their Trading Standards counterparts as well as testifying in court.

Last year eBay trained 1,666 coppers in the UK, and in the last two years has assisted officers in over 9,000 case investigations, resulting in the arrest of 200 suspected criminals. ®

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