Although fraud continues to be a thorn in eBay's side, a point was scored for the good guys when a Connecticut woman was sentenced to jail after pleading guilty in a scam that defrauded more than 300 buyers at the auction site to the tune of $880,000.

Federal prosecutors told the court that "it appears that, to date, this scheme is the largest instance of Internet auction fraud prosecuted in the United States."

The 25-year-old woman, Teresa Smith (also known as Teresa Iaconi) age 25, of Farmington, Conn., was sentenced by a federal judge to four years and nine months in prison and ordered to make restitution after she admitted selling computers via eBay and never shipping the merchandise to the buyers.

In what amounts to a classic example of a scam, Smith used different eBay identities to perpetrate her fraud. Each time eBay received customer complaints and suspended her from conducting business on its site, Smith would change to another identity, many of which belonged to her employees or friends, according to federal prosecutors.

Smith pleaded guilty on Dec. 20, 2002, to five counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud.

eBay's official position for some time has been that the rate of fraudulent transactions on the site runs about one one-hundredth of one percent. Still, because of its wild success and its constantly growing user base, eBay remains a continuing target for fraud attempts.

"Ensuring the integrity of electronic commerce is critical to the U.S. economy," said U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan. "The U.S. Attorney's Office and its federal, state and local law enforcement partners will continue to identify and prosecute those who use the Internet to prey on unsuspecting consumers."