Louisiana authorities said the man scammed thousands of buyers using an Internet site.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
COITSVILLE -- Township police have arrested a man wanted in Louisiana on suspicion of running an Internet scam that stole thousands of dollars from people who thought they were buying Sony PlayStation items and other goods.
David P. Rowbotham, 25, of Hubbard Road, faces 14 counts of felony theft, 14 counts of computer fraud and one identity-theft charge. He has denied the accusations to police, said Detective Sgt. Jude McElroy of the Houma Police Department in Louisiana.
Township police arrested Rowbotham around 4:15 p.m. Thursday after they found him hiding in a furnace room at the home of his girlfriend's mother, said Lt. Allan P. Morris of the Coitsville Township Police Department. He is being held without bond in Mahoning County jail and has told police he will likely waive extradition proceedings, authorities said.
Township police had conducted surveillance on the home and made undercover telephone calls to Rowbotham before two plainclothes officers went to the door to ask for him. When others in the home said he was not there, uniformed officers were sent to make the arrest.
Morris said the girlfriend's mother detained the officers for 15 to 20 minutes, telling them he was not at the home. Obstruction charges are pending.
McElroy said Rowbotham had lived in Louisiana for more than a year, working for a lawn-care business. He also allegedly ran the scam, offering items on the Internet auction site eBay. When authorities sought to arrest him April 16, he fled, returning to Ohio.
At least 20 people sent money for items they never received from Rowbotham, McElroy said. But that number may grow as investigators compile a list of alleged victims.
"It was an Internet scam," McElroy said. "He had no intention of providing people with the items."
Rowbotham is also accused of conning a man to open a checking account and post office box in the man's name. Rowbotham then used the account and box to launder the money he made in the Internet scam, McElroy alleged. The man had set up the account after Rowbotham promised him a job, telling him he needed the account and box for the position. Rowbotham used the man's name and another pseudonym to make the Internet sales.
Morris said it was also the Internet that helped police arrest Rowbotham. Local police and Louisiana police used the Web to correspond with each other and also used Internet sources to track Rowbotham down.
"It's pretty ironic," Morris said. "We used the Internet to help catch him, and he used the Internet to scam people."