A CONMAN who made more than £60,000 by selling fake signed sports shirts on eBay must try to pay them all back or risk a prison sentence.

Anthony McCabe was given a six-month target to raise the compensation money, having already saved £13,000.

Durham Crown Court heard his lucrative trade, between March, 2014, and April, 2018, involved selling football, rugby and other sports shirts supposedly signed by named players for between £16 and £830 each.

Phillip Morley, prosecuting, said McCabe would add the signature, himself, using a black marker pen, and add a fake certificate of authentication, to make the buyer believe the shirts were genuine.

Mr Morley said McCabe made £61,960 from his illicit trade, involving 876 sales, with many of those customers still oblivious that what they bought was fake.

The court was told he set up Paypal accounts in the name of a neighbour and a friend for the proceeds to go through, transferring the money to their respective bank accounts, before withdrawing sums to re-bank into his own account.

When arrested McCabe, 37, of previous good character, provided a statement admitting responsibility.

The defendant, of Durham Road, Spennymoor, admitted fraud by false representation, adapting an article for use in fraud and transferring criminal property, the money raised from the sales.

Vic Laffey, mitigating, provided the court with character references on the defendant’s behalf, including from McCabe’s employer, while the defendant also submitted a letter to Judge Ray Singh.

“It follows that he’s a fairly intelligent man and knows the situation he’s in.

“He knows he can only avoid jail if your honour goes outside of the guidelines.

“It’s obvious he’s been prepared for that since arrest.”

Mr Laffey said McCabe worked his way up to become a national sales manager at work, almost doubling his annual income in recent years.

But Mr Laffey said when he set up the shirt sales his wife was going through child birth and on “significantly reduced income”.

“He had collected these shirts himself and realised how easy it was to do what he did, and he accepts, fully, that it snowballed.

“It meant they didn’t have to sell their home and they maintained their lifestyle.

“But he was found out and acknowledged to police that he was responsible.”

Judge Singh said he would defer sentencing McCabe for six months to enable him to keep earning an income to compensate the victims.

The judge ordered him to draw up an inventory of the “customers” he duped and to raise the outstanding money, “in hard cash”.

Should McCabe manage this, he said he may be able step outside the guidelines.

Bailing him to return to court on May 5, he added: “I’m making absolutely no promises. It may still be prison, but it may stand you in good stead if you can get that money together.”