AN internet fraudster who fleeced customers out of £500 needed the money because hers was funding an alcohol dependency, a court heard.

Cody Claydon, 22, used her profile on the classifieds website Gumtree to sell two iPad Pro tablet computers which she never owned.

Both victims paid Claydon directly to her bank account when she told them she did not have a more secure Paypal account.

The first victim transferred £410 to Claydon including postage and packing.

Mo Miah, prosecuting, said: “She confirmed the money had been received but when he asked if the item had been posted, he got no reply.

“He sent further messages the next day and another one but heard nothing more from the defendant, so he reported her to Gumtree and Action Fraud.

“The second victim made contact with Claydon via Whatsapp.

“It was agreed the iPad would cost £250 but the victim said she would send £100 now and the remaining money after delivery.

“However, after the money was sent, the defendant messaged the victim to say she couldn’t send the iPad because she had been scammed before and had been advised not to go ahead.”

Mr Miah added the apologetic defendant had said she was going through a difficult time and needed food.

But the court heard there had been a breach of trust between the seller and the buyer as she misled them.

Claydon, who used to live in Gurdon Road, Colchester, but is now living in Bury St Edmunds, admitted to two counts of fraud by false representation at Colchester Magistrates’ Court.

She had been offered a conditional caution at an earlier date so she could reimburse the victims for their loss.

James O’Toole, mitigating, commented it was difficult to know what was going on in his client’s head at the time.

He continued: “She was isolated from family and suffering from depression and anxiety.

“Most of her money was being spent on alcohol and she needed the money for general household stuff.

“It was a mean offence.

“It’s unfortunate she was made subject to this conditional caution but she didn’t have the money to pay.

“Now things are looking better for her.”

Before sentencing Claydon, chairman of the bench, Mr Hinson, said the offence required some form of “sophistication and planning” and called it “opportunistic”.

Magistrates ordered Claydon to carry out a one-year community order including 60 hours of unpaid work.

She must also fully compensate her victims.