A CON artist fleeced more than £650,000 from unwitting customers by selling fake Rolex watches.

Jamie Thorpe traded under the name Ludgate Watches in West Sussex and was exposed by Trading Standards after one of his eBay victims complained about him in December 2014.

The 33-year-old, of Milwards Farm in Lewes, sold the fake luxury watch for £2,425 and even tampered with official Rolex warranty booklets.

He pleaded guilty to selling the counterfeit items last year, and was sentenced to a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, and 180 hours of community service in June.

Trading Standards’ investigation of Thorpe revealed he cashed in £659,043 from his illegal selling.

After his initial prosecution, the authority investigated his assets.

Thorpe then offered to pay £28,000 back, along with £659.26 in compensation, at his hearing at Lewes Crown Court on February 8.

Because he has nothing of value that can be recovered, the money was accepted.

If Thorpe fails to pay the full sum in three months he will have to serve nine months behind bars and will still owe the cash upon release.

A spokeswoman for West Sussex Trading Standards said: “After the initial prosecution, West Sussex Trading Standards carried out an investigation into Jamie Thorpe’s assets.

“Once it was decided what the defendant had to pay back, the hearing was scheduled based on the court’s availability.

“Jamie Thorpe offered to pay the sum of £28,000 on the day of the hearing.”

The Argus visited Thorpe’s farm address yesterday afternoon.

While there, the criminal drove up to his gates in a flashy Range Rover with a personalised registration plate.

We flagged him down and asked him if he had anything to say for himself, but Thorpe then drove off without comment.

Debbie Kennard, West Sussex County Council’s cabinet member for safer, stronger communities, praised the work of the authority.

She said: “Our Trading Standards team have done an excellent job once again.

“Deceiving people into buying fake items is a serious offence that hurts both innocent buyers and legitimate businesses.

“I hope this outcome will deter anyone tempted to sell counterfeit goods in West Sussex.”

Richard Sargeant, team manager of Trading Standards, said: “Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of an unfair trading practice, should contact Trading Standards via Citizens Advice on 03454 04 05 06 or online via www.westsussex.gov.uk/tsreport.”

Thorpe is a tenant at Milwards Farm and is not associated with any of the businesses based there.