COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A scam involving fake car sales under the guise of an eBay program was stopped in 2019, and its ringleader is now sentenced to federal prison for 170 months, according to the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.

A news release states Terry J. Boutwell, 38, of Columbus, and his co-conspirators “cheated hundreds of victims around the country out of more than $10.6 million total.”

Boutwell must also pay restitution in the amount of $10,639,225.91 for the illegal operation that ran from 2015 until October 2018 and defrauded more than 850 victims nationwide.

U.S. Attorney Vipal J. Patel states the investigation into the scam was far-reaching across the U.S. and involved many law enforcement members.

“Boutwell and his co-conspirators may have been dedicated to carrying out this sophisticated scheme, but our law enforcement partners on all levels throughout the country were just as dedicated to getting justice for the hundreds of victims who lost hard-earned money to this criminal conspiracy,” said Patel. “Now, through restitution, we hope to get that money back to them. In the meantime, Boutwell will be serving a lengthy stay in federal prison.”

The scheme involved the criminals “posing as employees of eBay” and using “third parties to open bank accounts in the names of shell corporations that appeared to be affiliated with eBay,” according to the release.

The release goes on to detail that victims were instructed “to wire funds to various third-party bank accounts they set up” and operators of the scam “claimed to be affiliated with eBay’s Buyer Protection Program, when in fact, no such relationship existed.”

Patel also gives a warning to consumers about monetary transactions that are not typical of online sales.

“This case serves as an unfortunate reminder that scammers will find new and sinister ways to relieve you of your hard-earned dollars,” Patel added. “Any attempt to communicate or make payment outside of an online merchant’s existing system should be met with extreme skepticism and caution.”

The co-conspirators named in the release include Tiffany A. Strobl, 41, of Columbus and Shalitha R. Schexnayder, 41, of Miami. Strobl received a five-month prison sentence and was ordered to pay restitution of more than $2 million. Schexnayder received the lightest sentence of six months of home confinement as part of five years of federal probation.