Four Hartlepool men have been sentenced to a total of 16 years for fraud offences, after targeting more than 60 people across the North of England.
Frederick Robinson, 25, of Innes Road, received five years and six months; Mark Howe, 31, also of Innes Road, received five years and three months; Lee McLoughlin, 39, of Brierton Lane, received four years and six months and Jodie Marchant, 27, of Wynyard Road, received a 10 month suspended sentence.
All four appeared before Newcastle Crown Court on Tuesday April 4, after a complex fraud investigation by Northumbria Police Cyber Crime department.
The defendants were using Facebook to entice their victims to obtain contracts on high value smart phones on their behalf.
The suspects arranged meeting points where the new phones were handed over by the victim and in many cases the victims were left to pay the outstanding contracts.
The value of fraud totalled more than £180,000.
Prior to sentencing, Robinson and Howe went on to commit a further fraud offence while on bail.
Both admitted a further 20 offences, which were taken into consideration when passing sentence.
Detective Constable Farrell, who lead the investigation, said: "We are absolutely committed to stopping these criminals.
"Victims are our absolute priority and we will continue to work closely with them to help prevent repeat incidents and take action on those who commit fraud offences.
"These men preyed on people from across our region and there may be other victims out there who haven’t yet come forward.
"I would urge anyone who recognises these men and believe may have fallen victim to them should contact police.
"It is so important to stay safe online and always take time to question someone or an offer online.
"Research the details before you give any of your personal information.
"Be prepared to ask questions before getting involved.
"Trust your instincts – if an offer looks too good to believe then there is usually a catch.
"Be suspicious of offers that are too good to be true and be sure you know who you are dealing with."