A "struggling businessman" drove more than 200 miles to Merseyside in a "sophisticated" scam which saw O2 conned out of more than £250,000.
Edward Barker was found with dozens of fake driving licences, which he used to collect iPhones and iPads ordered in unsuspecting customers' names, from O2 stores across the north west.
The 21-year-old from Chelmsford made the lengthy journey to stores in Bootle and Aintree, as well as others, and tricked staff into thinking he was the customer, a court was told.
Barker was stopped on the M60 last December after his car activated a police ANPR camera, the Manchester Evening News reports.
Officers found 11 fake driving licences, a number of which had his photo, but other people's names.
There were also five mobile phones, which had all been picked up from different O2 stores.
A search of his home the following day found another 160 fake licences, some with Barker's picture, and 23 fake bank cards.
These also contained the details of existing O2 customers and there was evidence they had been also been used for similar frauds involving iPhones and iPads.
However, Nicholas Hamilton, prosecuting, said he could only say for certain Barker had used the licences found in his car.
It was unclear how exactly how the customers' details had been compromised, and by who, Mr Hamilton said.
Many customers, Mr Hamilton said, would have been oblivious to the fact they were paying for devices they had never ordered and never received.
He told the court : "Those who are assiduous in checking their bank statements would have been able to see an iPhone or iPad had been ordered and that the amount had gone out.
"However those who were not so assiduous, especially as bills differ each month based on usage, may not have realised they had been the victim of fraud."
The total loss to O2 was around £254,000, however, this could not all be attributed to Barker the court was told.
Barker, of George Cardnell Way, Mayland, Chelmsford, Essex, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to three counts of possession of articles for use in fraud and five counts of fraud by false representation.
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Max Saffman, defending, said his client was "following orders" from those higher up the chain of the operation and had essentially been "sent on an errand" to collect the phones.
He said Barker became involved when the business he had set up began struggling and he was "struggling to make ends meet".
"I would suggest foolishly and naively, he saw it as a quick and easy way to make some money," he said.
"He wasn't the one who ordered them. He was simply acting on instructions.
"Even though it was a sophisticated operation that wasn't down to him."
He added Barker, who has no previous convictions, was now holding down two jobs.
Recorder Paul Reid QC said he was "just about" able to suspend Barker's 16-month prison sentence, which he did for a period of 18 months.
He also ordered him to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work.
Passing sentence he said: "You were part of a sophisticated, well planned and well-executed fraud, designed to get O2 stores in the north of England to part with iPhones and iPads of high-value.
"The level of sophistication of planning is indicated by the use of the fake driving licences and bank cards, which allowed you to pose as someone who had ordered a high-value iPhone or iPad , and use it as proof to collect the item.
"It goes back in its execution to someone having managed to obtain the details of existing O2 customers, and use them to order these items.
"You were then the person, at the end of the chain, who went along to pick up the items.
"It wasn't you who made the clear profit from the re-sale of these items.
"The loss to O2 from all the licences which were in your house was somewhere in the region of a quarter of a million pounds.
"You weren't involved in obtaining that kind of quantity of iPhones or iPads so I have to be careful in approaching things on that basis.
"I agree your role was low-level and was over a relatively short period of time.
"In these circumstances, I feel I am just about able to suspend your term of imprisonment."