BOWLING GREEN - Seeing Mark West in a Wood County courtroom yesterday for the first time since he left town last November, Teresa West recounted to the jury the day she learned about her husband's "eBay mess," as she called it.
Shortly after the Wests returned home Nov. 14 from a weekend trip to attend a Pittsburgh Steelers game, Mrs. West said she picked up the local newspaper and was stunned to read a front-page story detailing accusations that her husband had sold but not delivered tickets for the upcoming Ohio State-Michigan football game.
Soon after, two men showed up at the couple's Fostoria apartment saying they wanted the tickets they'd bought from West on eBay or a refund - and they weren't willing to take a personal check, she said.
"He went down to the bank to get the money, and they said, 'How do we know you'll come back? And he said, 'I'm leaving you here with my wife, ain't I?' and he left," Mrs. West said.
Mr. West returned with the men's money but left town the next day without a word to his wife, she said, and she hasn't spoken to him since.
Mr. West, 54, is on trial in Common Pleas Court on felony theft and telecommunications fraud charges. He is expected to take the stand this morning in his defense.
His attorney, Andy Hart, said Mr. West will explain how the business he ran since late 2002 selling event tickets on eBay failed, leaving about 250 people who bought tickets for the OSU-Michigan game without those tickets.
While the defense claims Mr. West did not intend to defraud anyone, prosecutors contend Mr. West intentionally took people's money for tickets he didn't have to use the money as he pleased. He was arrested in January in Daytona Beach, Fla., about two months after he disappeared.
Mrs. West testified that she and Mr. West, whom she married in 2002, took numerous trips to attend out-of-town sporting events, and her husband had bought two vehicles in October, 2005, and had his Ford truck customized. She didn't question his source of income, she said, because she believed he was employed as a supervisor at Firelands Counseling in Fostoria, earning $75,000 a year.
Special Agent Rex Russell, who investigated the alleged fraud for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, testified that Mr. West was never employed by Firelands but derived all his income from his eBay sales - and the dollar amounts that changed hands were substantial.
Stoney Burke, a senior fraud investigator for eBay, said company records show Mr. West - under the online name of bulldog70 - sold 804 items for a total of $423,266 on the online auction site between November, 2004, and November, 2005. Of those transactions, 400 were tickets to the Nov. 19, 2005, Ohio State-Michigan game in Ann Arbor - sales that totaled $250,330.
Among the $163,174 in purchases Mr. West made on eBay during the same time period were 22 transactions to buy OSU-Michigan tickets for $11,093, Mr. Burke said.
He said after all the complaints came in from eBay customers who paid for but did not receive football tickets from Mr. West, eBay suspended Mr. West's account. The company ultimately made an exception to its normal policy, Mr. Burke said, and refunded all the customers' money, either through direct payments to the customer or to the credit card companies that credited their accounts.
The loss to eBay totaled $161,396 to 254 customers, he said.
The trial, which is expected to end today, resumes at 9 a.m. in Judge Alan Mayberry's courtroom.
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