An Ohio man has admitted heading a conspiracy that netted more than $1m by using phony Universal Product Code labels to acquire store merchandise and then selling the booty on eBay.
Tommy Joe Tidwell, 35, of Dayton, Ohio, pleaded guilty to three felony counts, including conspiracy to use unauthorized access devices, use of unauthorized access devices and mail and wire fraud. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 40 years. Sentencing is scheduled for January.
According to prosecutors, Tidwell created fraudulent UPC bar code labels on his home PC and then directed conspirators to place them on goods being sold in stores in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The doctored labels allowed the conspirators to buy the items for a fraction of the real price.
Tidwell then sold the items on eBay, using the user id TJTMiss.
He is the second defendant in the case to plead guilty. David J. Lombardo, 44, pleaded guilty in September to one count of conspiracy to use unauthorized access devices and one count of use of unauthorized access devices. Charges are still pending against two others accused of taking part in the conspiracy.
As was the case with an airport baggage handler charged with stealing passengers' stuff, Tidwell's eBay account enjoyed a stellar reputation. Out of 522 comments left, only four were negative, giving him a positive feedback rating of 99.2.
Typical of the remarks was this one: "Excellent product!!! Great Price!! and Fast Shipping. Highly Recomend!!!"
The score would probably be higher were it not for the work of the FBI and local law enforcement. On July 2, one eBay buyer complained: "Never answered e-mails,never shipped item, had to complain to get money back." Exactly one week later, Tidwell was indicted. ®