Newport Beach police on Monday arrested an unemployed Stockton resident on suspicion of buying a Rolex watch and 50 laptop computers on the popular eBay Internet auction service using phony bank checks he printed on his home computer.
The alleged scam is the latest in several fraud cases to hit web auction services in recent months, forcing eBay and other firms to tighten security and improve controls.
Police said Jason Eric Grezegorzewski, 28, was highest bidder in several Internet auctions, purchasing a $10,000 Rolex "Presidential" watch as well as the computers.
The suspect allegedly paid for the merchandise using counterfeit cashier's checks left at Mail Boxes Etc. post office boxes in Newport Beach and Beverly Hills. A courier company would drop off merchandise in exchange for the checks, according to police.
Police were alerted to the case by an Illinois man who said he sold some merchandise to Grezegorzewski through eBay but received a bogus check. Investigators said Grezegorzewski apparently was selling the laptop computers for cash.
"I think he has found a good market for getting rid of the laptops, but we have no idea how he was disposing of these things," said Newport Beach Police Det. Jerry Lowe.
Grezegorzewski was arrested Monday afternoon when he stopped into a Mail Boxes Etc. in Newport Beach to pick merchandise he purchased on the Internet auction. Police said he was carrying $20,000 in cash.
Police served a search warrant on the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Grezegorzewskiwas staying. They confiscated merchandise investigators believe was purchased over the Internet as well as computer equipment allegedly used to make the checks, police said.
eBay--one of the hottest Internet stocks on Wall Street--has come under criticism in recent months because of fraud complaints by some users.
The Internet service allows sellers to post merchandise for sale on the Internet. Potential buyers bid for the items, and they are shipped cash-on-delivery to a location specified by the buyer.
In what is believed to be the first criminal prosecution involving eBay transactions, a Florida resident was recently sentenced to six months of home detention for selling computers and then failing to deliver them. He was also ordered to pay more than $22,000 in restitution to the victims.
Despite such complaints, the company's growth has exploded in the last 18 months, from 250,000 registered users to 1.2 million.
"We have a zero-tolerance policy for any level of fraud," said Kevin Pursglove, senior director of communications for eBay. "Among other things, we encourage users to look up [the site's links to] the Internet Fraud Watch, which has a list of tips and suggestions on ways to protect yourself from fraud."