A man and woman were exploited by someone “far more sophisticated” to defraud a dad and son in an eBay motorhome scam, the Liverpool Echo reports.
Sarah Kirkwood, 33, and Kevin Burke, 34, appeared at Liverpool Crown Court this morning, Monday, May 15, after both pleaded guilty to criminal property charges in magistrates court.
Helen Chenery, prosecuting, told the court that Dale and Peter Horton had seen a motorhome listed for sale on eBay in October 2021.
The dad and son contacted the seller of the motorhome who was listed as Sarah Kirkwood with a home address of Webster Grove in Morecambe.
The pair contacted who they believed to be Kirkwood and arranged a bank transfer under the assumption the motorhome was genuine.
Dale Horton transferred £2,000 to Kirkwood on October 5 and another £2,000 two days later with the reference “motorhome”.
Peter Horton also transferred £8,000 to Kirkwood on October 5, while Dale Horton also transferred £12,500 to the account of Kevin Burke on October 6.
Following the payments, Dale Horton arranged to meet Kirkwood on October 7 at the listed eBay address.
But when he arrived no one was present, and neighbours in the surrounding houses had never heard of anyone called Sarah Kirkwood at that address.
Phone calls and texts to the number he had been using to previously converse with the alleged seller were unanswered.
Ms Chenery said: “It was at this moment he realised he was a victim of fraud.”
The court heard how Kirkwood, of Cockerell Close, Kirkdale, and Burke, of New Ferry Road, New Ferry, had been approached by an unnamed person to deposit the money into their accounts.
Both defendants did so in the knowledge they would receive a small fraction of the amount, which Ms Chenery said was as little as £150.
Both Kirkwood and Burke, who were unknown to each other before their first appearance at magistrates court, were arrested in January this year and charged in March.
They pleaded guilty to the charges against them – Kirkwood to possessing criminal property and Burke to transferring of criminal property.
The court heard how Kirkwood had no previous convictions, but Burke had a previous relevant fraud conviction from 2012 that saw him given a 12-month sentence suspended for 24 months.
The prosecution noted there were no victim statements from the Hortons’ available to be read to the court.
Both men also hadn’t answered emails regarding if they had been compensated by their banks for the money lost in the fraud. The total value of compensation was £24,500 with £16,500 to Dale and £8,000 to Peter Horton.
David Polglase, defending Burke, told the court that 26 weeks is the starting point for criminal property valued up to £50,000.
He said: “The sum involved is far less than that. Less again because the money goes in two different directions.”
He also noted Burke is on benefits and is unfit to carry out unpaid work.
He said: “It would be unjust to add the punitive element [of sentence].
Mr Polglase added: “We do not know if the bank has compensated the victims. My submission is any application for compensation is appropriate in how they can pay.”
Jo Maxwell, defending Kirkwood, added how her client did not have any previous convictions, and the ordeal “had a dramatic effect on her ability to work and in her life”.
The judge, Recorder Michael Blakey, told the court that as both pleaded guilty they would receive credit when it came to sentencing.
Burke was entitled to 25% credit while Kirkwood received full credit.
Recorder Blakey told the pair: “Both of you were in vulnerable positions and you were contacted by someone in a far more sophisticated position than yourselves.”
Addressing Kirkwood, he said: “You were of great character, you have now lost that great character. That is punishment in itself.”
And speaking to Burke, the judge said “you allowed this money to be transferred into your account”, before adding “you were part and parcel of this enterprise”.
He told them both: “The message is if you do it then you suffer the consequences.”
Kirkwood was sentenced to a 12 month community order.
She will also be required to undergo mental health treatment and complete 50 days of rehabilitation.
Burke was also sentenced to a 12 month community order and will have to complete 20 days’ rehabilitation.