Three Romanian fraudsters were jailed on Friday in London for a worldwide fraud carried out via Internet auction house eBay which netted at least 300,000 pounds.
Some 3,000 victims from as far away as the United States and South Korea were snared by the trio in a scam involving crime bosses in Romania and which police fear continues to this day.
Judge Duncan Matheson sentenced Nicolae Cretanu, 30, to 3-1/2 years and his wife Adriana Cretanu 23, and their accomplice George Titar, 26, to 30 months each.
"This was on any showing a major and sophisticated fraud," Matheson told the Romanians as they stood in the dock at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court.
Between 2003 and 2005 the three had played a major role in the fraud which worked by operating bogus auctions for consumer goods ranging from scooters to military memorabilia.
Unsuspecting eBayers who tried to buy the fictitious goods were contacted and told their bid had been unsuccessful.
The disappointed bidders were then offered a second chance to buy similar goods outside the eBay system which gives some protection from fraud.
EBay on Friday urged its users to be careful when trading.
"These criminals used the site to gather information and initially to contact their victims but carried out the fraud separately beyond the protected environment we provide," eBay.co.uk said in a statement.
"Always be wary of direct contact from sellers offering to sell 'off eBay' and of anyone asking for payments through money transfers."
Through a variety of aliases and using a number of forged Belgian passports, the Romanians made hundreds of collections from Western Union money transfer outlets in London.
They kept about 30 percent of the money they stole, the rest they passed onto crime bosses in Romania and the authorities are concerned the scam continues to be perpetuated by others.
British police believe the actual fraud committed by the Romanians and their accomplices was far greater than the 300,000 pounds detailed in court.