Buyers on eBay bought millions of dollars worth of fake golf clubs, golf apparel and accessories in what eBay is calling the largest scam of its kind.
Three of the conspirators appeared in court last week facing charges of conspiracy to distribute golf clubs and apparel. Gary Bellchambers of London is being called the "mastermind" in the international operation. Six others are also linked to the scam, but deny participation. Bellchambers has admitted to the charges, according to news reports.
"This is a conspiracy of a truly global nature," notes prosecutor Adam Davies. According to authorities, participants based in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Germany, Singapore, Thailand, the U.K. and the U.S. sold and distributed millions of items from mid-2003 to early 2008. According to news reports, most of the items sold were made in China.
"Nearly every major golf brand has been affected by the sale of counterfeit goods through eBay accounts," Davies says. "It is the belief of the fraud investigation unit at eBay that this case represents the single largest counterfeiting conspiracy yet uncovered on their Web site."
According to prosecutors, the scam was unveiled when a buyer purchased golf clubs from Bellchambers and asked for a refund because she was unhappy with the quality of the equipment.
The woman reportedly wrote a complaint to Bellchambers but received no reply, so she complained to the Trading Standards office in London. This led to an investigation and eventually the recovery of more than 1,500 fake clubs.
According to reports, eBay officials had suspected some of the conspirators' accounts and closed them, but the sellers simply opened new ones.
Investigators say several others were involved in the operation, but charges have not been filed due to lack of evidence.
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Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.