CAMBRIDGE United footballer Ryan Charles escaped jail after his eBay account was used in a credit card fraud.
Charles, who lives in Cuffley Court, Hemel Hempstead, was involved in a scam with 6ft 7in tall basketball player Dwayne Gilpin.
The striker, who used to play for Luton and Rushden and Diamonds, allowed his eBay account to be used to launder money gained from the auction of breaks at luxury hotels that had been bought with stolen credit card details.
Around £12,000 was made in the confidence fraud, St Albans Crown Court was told.
Prosecutor Sally Mealing-McLeod said it was uncovered when Janince Brennan was the highest bidder on eBay for a break at Claridges Hotel in London. She paid £542.99 through PayPal for a voucher for a three-night stay. The hotel then discovered that the voucher Mrs Brennan bought had been paid for with stolen credit card details.
PayPal was contacted and the voucher sale was traced to Ryan Charles.
An investigation was launched. American Express lost $8,532, Claridges £914 and the Trophy Store £44.14.
When questioned by the police on January 24 this year Charles said Gilpin had set up the eBay account using his details. In a later interview he said he had been ‘stitched up’ by Gilpin who was the real fraudster.
Gilpin, who is to play basketball in the Canadian Inter-University League next year, told the officers he and Charles had set up the account together.
Charles, 22, pleaded guilty to money laundering. Gilpin, 23, of Church Road, Northolt, Middlesex pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud.
Chris Georgiou, for Gilpin said: “For as little as £2 or £3 he could purchase credit card details and it snowballed.” He said Gilpin, a former catering student at Thames Valley University, was of previous good character, and was due to play basketball in Canada next year where he will earn 4,000 dollars a month.
For Charles, Michael House said: “He was asked by a friend if he could use his eBay account because Gilpin’s was frozen. He did not stop it. He turned a blind eye. He bitterly regrets his involvement and is ashamed of his conduct. He feels he has let himself and his mother down very badly.”
At the time he said Charles was playing for Rushden but is now with Cambridge in the Conference League, where he earns £1,700 a month.
Judge Andrew Bright QC said: “It was a sophisticated operation by fraudsters who knew what they were doing. It was a confidence fraud. Credit card details were used to acquire hotel vouchers which were sold on eBay.”
He sentenced Gilpin to 12 months’ jail suspended for 18 months and ordered him to carry out 120 hours unpaid work. He must pay compensation of £1,456.99p. He told him: “You have had an extremely lucky escape. I hope this sentence will allow you to continue your very promising sports career.”
Charles was given a six-month sentence suspended for 18 months, with 12 months’ supervision. He must complete 100 hours unpaid work within 12 months and pay £2,044.14 compensation and £350 costs.