AN online trader has been ordered to pay nearly £4,000 by a court after selling a £700 drone which did not exist to a Dudley man.

The victim, from Kingswinford, agreed to buy a drone from Ian French on the online selling app Shpock, Dudley Magistrates Court heard.

He paid £714 by bank transfer after French showed him photographs of his driving licence to convince him he was genuine.

French gave the buyer a bogus tracking number, claiming the drone had been posted out to him. But the drone was never delivered, the court was told, and Dudley Trading Standards was called in to investigate after the seller became uncontactable.

French, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, later admitted the drone did not exist.

He pleaded guilty to fraud and theft when he appeared at court last week on Friday July 21.

The 42-year-old was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months.

He was also ordered to repay the £714 to the victim in compensation, and to pay £3,000 in court costs and a victim surcharge of £128.

Councillor Ian Bevan, Dudley Council's cabinet member responsible for trading standards, said: "Unfortunately the online world is now full of people looking to take advantage of genuine, hard-working people and this kind of case is something we are sadly hearing about more and more.

"I’m pleased that we have been able to secure an order through the courts which will see the victim repaid in full.

"This case goes to show that our trading standards team will not hesitate to step in and investigate online scams, and ensure those responsible pay the price for their callous actions."

Residents who believe they may have been scammed are urged to contact the Citizens Advice consumer service by calling 0808 223 1133 in the first instance.