ALLENTOWN, Pa. – One woman from Texas saved her Christmas money for three years to buy diamond stud earrings.

Another man, a former U.S. Marine from Michigan who lost part of his brain and lived on a small pension, thought he was buying a rare coin.

They and dozens of others paid hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars for merchandise advertised on eBay – but received nothing.

On Wednesday, a Lehigh Valley, Pa., woman was sentenced in Philadelphia to three years in prison for scamming 75 people nationwide on the popular Internet auction site.

Julie C. Miller, 34, who had addresses in New Tripoli, Hellertown and Breinigsville, also was sentenced to three years’ supervised release by U.S. District Judge Stuart Dalzell. Miller collected nearly $70,000 between November 2003 and January 2005 from people who never received their merchandise.

Miller pleaded guilty in July to three counts of mail fraud and could have been sentenced to as many as 20 years in prison.

“Drugs took over my life and became more important than my children,” said Miller, a paralegal with two small children who cried as she told Dalzell that her problems stemmed from drugs and a former boyfriend.

But Dalzell, in pronouncing sentence, said he was disturbed that Miller perpetrated the scam while on probation from other crimes in Lehigh County.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joan Markman, who described Miller as an “unremitting con artist,” said Miller had four convictions between 2002 and 2005 in Lehigh County for various offenses, including trafficking in stolen and counterfeit checks.

Miller also had been arrested nine times in Lehigh and Northampton counties, most recently in April for stealing $12,000 in checks from a Hanover Township, Northampton County, business while negotiating a plea deal for the eBay thefts, Markman said.

“What troubles me most is that this all happened while under probation in Lehigh County,” Dalzell said. “I have to protect the public from you.”

According to prosecutors, Miller’s scam was simple: to offer products via eBay with “no intention of providing.”

Items Miller advertised included Pittsburgh Steelers tickets, merchant gift cards, Gucci handbags, Disney World passes and tickets to the Super Bowl.

When customers complained, she found different ways to avoid them. Some she sent “cheap” or “counterfeit” goods. Others she provided phony package tracking numbers.

In most cases she “ducked” calls and e-mails from customers demanding their products or refunds, Markman said. Sometimes she sent refund checks that bounced.

Customers eventually complained to eBay, which closed Miller’s account. But Markman said Miller simply would open a new account under a different name, e-mail address and bank account.

Markman added that most of the people fleeced were of “limited” means and the loss of a few hundred dollars was severe. None of the victims traveled to Philadelphia for the sentencing, but many did provide what Dalzell described as “compelling” written statements.

“These victims have faces,” Dalzell said. “They have lives.”

Miller will be required to pay restitution once she’s released from prison, from $100 per month the first year to $300 per month the third year.


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