A MAN conned hundreds of people in a £53,000 eBay fraud which spanned the globe.

Jonathan Hartley, 26, used the names of real and fictitious people to open accounts on the internet auction site and sent out defective or fake electronic goods to unsuspecting buyers, Burnley Crown Court was told.

Hartley, of Scotland Road, Nelson, admitted five counts of obtaining services by deception, five counts of fraud and one count of money laundering. He has been warned by a judge to expect jail.

After the case, a detective who led the painstaking nine-month investigation into Hartley’s crimes revealed the shocking scale of the deception.

Det Con Simon Robinson, of Pendle CID, said police had initially received more than 1,600 complaints and gathered evidence from 640 victims.

The probe revealed that Hartley, who had operated since April 2006, ended up owing almost £40,000 to eBay in fees and had defrauded his victims out of a total of £14,000. He is the subject of an ongoing Proceeds of Crime Act inquiry.

DC Robinson said: “Our investigation came in from members of the public around the country who contacted us via email, and it developed from there.

“They were alleging that they had been defrauded out of cash because the items they got were not the ones they ordered or they had simply never got their orders.”

Officers from Lancashire Police spoke to eBay bosses in a bid to find out the scale of the fraud.

“We established that there were in excess of 1,600 complaints,” added DC Robinson. “That’s one of the reasons the investigation took so long.

“However, it was not too difficult to track him down. A lot of people had cheques from the transactions and if you followed the paper trail it led to him.”

Examples of Hartley’s deception included MP3 players which were sold as 8GB but turned out to be 1GB, and other items which were simply never delivered.

Burnley Crown Court heard that others in China were said to be involved in Hartley’s operation, which started as a “legitimate exercise”.

Phillip Curran, defending, said police were able to seize money from the defendant's accounts, which more then covered the £53,000.

The court was also told that names and addresses used were picked at random and that a multiple sclerosis sufferer from Durham received a visit from bailiffs looking for Hartley.

Hartley pleaded guilty to 11 offences but denied a further four charges, which were accepted by the prosecution.

Judge Simon Newell warned him: “All sentences will be at large and you have to bear in mind there is every likelihood it will be a custodial sentence.”

Hartley was granted bail to reappear on November 14 when he is expected to be sentenced.

DC Robinson added: “It is a good result for us and we are very happy.

“At the end of the day, people get caught - this man is evidence of that. It is a warning to others.”