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AUSTINTOWN Hearing set in case of Internet deception



Published: Wed, June 6, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Customers from around the world never got the computers they ordered.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

AUSTINTOWN -- A pretrial hearing is set for a Leetonia woman charged with stealing more than $13,000 through the Internet auction site eBay.

The hearing for Saundra D. Melton, 41, of Walnut Street, Leetonia, will be Monday in Mahoning County Court in Austintown. She is charged with theft by deception.

Austintown police reports say Melton, who used the name "msmeltdown" and the e-mail address msmeltdown@yahoo.com, was selling laptop computers on eBay for $798 each.

The advertisement for the eBay sale asked buyers to send a check to a post office box at Send It Packin' Plus on Canfield-Niles Road in Austintown.

Alerted authorities: The owner of Send It Packin' Plus contacted police in April after receiving several calls from people who said they had not received a laptop from Melton.

Complaints also were reported to the FBI and the Ohio Attorney General's Office from eBay users across the United States, as well in as Canada, France, Japan and Iran.

"There's probably more out there that we haven't heard from," said Detective Sgt. Frank Tomasino.

Police later determined that the post office box belonged to Melton, who was arraigned in mid-April. Police have returned $3,183 in checks sent to Melton after her arraignment.

Tomasino said it was the first case involving Internet auctions that he had investigated.

Agreement: All eBay users are asked to read an agreement on the Internet site stating that eBay has "no control over the quality, safety or legality of the items advertised, [or] the truth or accuracy of the listings."

The agreement also states that "eBay cannot and does not confirm each user's purported identity."

The Internet site does provide some fraud protection, but only up to $200.

In addition, eBay provides users with the opportunity to list complaints on the site about a seller's behavior, but no complaints were listed under the profile for "msmeltdown."

Tomasino said eBay was very cooperative with the Melton investigation.

hill@vindy.com




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