Craigslist ‘Robberies By Appointment’ Turn Violent

From www.redtape.msnbc.com via www.ten8.wordpress.com

January 7, 2011

The sleepy suburban neighborhood in Bogota, N.J., looked safe when Michael pulled up to meet the man who had offered to buy his MacBook after seeing an ad on Craigslist. And everything seemed perfectly normal when the buyer walked up to his car and began counting out cash.

But then a second man appeared seemingly out of nowhere and shoved a shotgun in Michael’s face.

“It was pretty terrifying,” said Michael, who let the pair take the computer from his trunk, then watched them run off into the night. “I thought they were going to take the car.”

The robbery is just one example of a disturbing new kind of theft that blends cybercrime with the physical dangers of real crime.  Across the country, Craigslist users who agree to meetings in seemingly safe places are being robbed at gunpoint, pistol-whipped and, in at least one case, murdered.  In Chicago, police call it “robbery by appointment.”

 Just last week, the city of Oakland, Calif., issued a wide-ranging warning about Craigslist-related car sales. A gang there has progressed from one theft per week to one per day, stealing thousands of dollars from victims using ads on Craigslist to lure them into meetings. The police now have an entire investigative team dedicated to tracking them down.

“They are getting more blatant and violent,” said Oakland police spokeswoman Holly Joshi. “The last (victim) got pretty beat up.  Right now it’s a top priority for us.”

Craigslist robbers appear to be much more sophisticated than the criminals that Web users routinely encounter.  Their ads are indistinguishable from normal for sale items, Joshi said. They return phone calls using local phone numbers; they offer to meet in public places, foiling much of the “safe surfing” advice that’s been given for years. 

Among the more disturbing elements of the crimes: Many are taking place in broad daylight or early evening hours, and in what seem to be safe neighborhoods.

“Meeting in a public place really is not good enough,” Joshi warned. She said most crimes there are occurring between 2 and 6 p.m. “Residential areas can be relatively isolated during the day.”

That’s what happened to Michael, who asked that his last name be withheld.  He met his suspects in a nice neighborhood in Bogata, about 10 miles west of New York City, only a few blocks from the police station — but the block itself was quiet and empty during the incident.

Nothing seemed unusual about the transaction until the gun appeared, Michael said. But in retrospect, he thinks he should have been surprised that the buyers didn’t make any attempts to negotiate the price with him.

“They were just very concerned with setting up a meeting,” he said.  “That was the only thing that was strange.”

Michael got off easy, losing only his used computer.  A scan of incidents around the country show much more dire consequences for some other Craigslist users.

In Raleigh, N.C., a man’s car was sprayed with bullets by Craigslist robbers earlier last year, while a woman in Newport Beach, Calif., was pistol whipped during an alleged bicycle sale. There have been a string of dirt-bike related Craigslist robberies in Ohio, and just before Christmas, an Ohio man was shot in the jaw during one incident. In Stafford, Va., criminals’ allegedly selling deep-discounted iPhones brazenly invited consumers to meet them on the steps of the county courthouse. And in Sarasota, Fla., police issued a warning on New Year’s Eve after a similar string of iPhone-related armed robberies.

The most dramatic Craigslist appointment robbery occurred last year in rural Pierce County in Washington state, when four suspects allegedly went to a home with robbery plans in response to a diamond ring offered for sale on the site. After a violent exchange, police say, homeowner James Sanders was shot and killed while his wife and child looked on.  All four suspects are now in custody awaiting trial.

Craigslist robberies are so common that Trench Reynolds, who hosts an anti-Craigslist site named CraigsCrimeList.org, chronicles them in a “robbery” category.

Reynolds said robberies that originate with a Craigslist contact have remained fairly constant during the past several years, but are only now attracting media attention.

“They don’t always result in someone getting shot in the face like in Ohio, but they are fairly frequent,” he said.

Is This The Perfect Crime?
In some ways, a robbery arranged on Craigslist is the perfect crime. Whether the mark is buying or selling the item, he or she arrives at a meeting with either a wad of cash or something valuable. Such meetings often involve the disclosure of much personal information, including phone numbers and home addresses. A clever robber may even persuade the potential victim  to disclose tidbits like work schedules or number of adults in the household at a given time.  And while most consumers are now appropriately skeptical of e-mail from criminals, many let their guard down when a person-to-person meeting is arranged, experts said. 

In addition, many users mistakenly believe it’s safe to meet buyers or sellers in their homes — which provide no safety if three or four thugs arrive armed with weapons.

“I tell people, invite them to meet you at the police station. We’re open 24 hours. If they won’t do that, then don’t bother with them,” said Bogota police Sgt. Robert Piterski, who is investigating the robbery of Michael’s MacBook. “But many people just don’t get it, don’t realize how dangerous this can be.”

Increased use of Craigslist for robberies may simply represent the coming-of-age of a generation of criminals who grew up using the Internet, so-called “Digital Natives” using familiar tools to commit crimes.  After a string of incidents in Chicago, police Detective Joseph McGuire said the crime occurs “where a thug meets a white-collar education.”

Digital trails, but little risk.

You might think the crime would be risky for the criminals. After all, many leave behind a digital trail of e-mails, Craigslist posts and telephone calls that could be traced by law enforcement.  While that’s true, such cybersleuthing is rarely done by local police, said Mark Rasch, former head of the Justice Department’s Computer Crime Unit.  The word is out, at least in some towns, that criminals don’t have to worry about being tracked through cyberspace.

“A lot of these towns don’t have the training or the manpower to do that kind of work,” said Rasch, now head of privacy at security firm CSC.  And while clever criminals could hide their Internet tracks, they usually don’t bother. “They rely on the fact that police lack subpoena power and technological sophistication,” Rasch added.

 Also, getting a subpoena from the local district attorney is usually a bridge too far in small-ticket property crimes, he said.

Officials at Craigslist sent an e-mail in response to questions about the incidents.

“The overwhelming majority of Craigslist users are trustworthy and well-intentioned,” said spokeswoman Susan MacTavish in the note.  “With billions of human interactions facilitated through Craigslist, the incidence of violent crime has been extremely low.”

Rasch also said consumers “can’t really blame the Internet,” for these kinds of crimes. Suspects could just as easily post or browse similar ads in newspaper classified ads section, he noted.

Red Tape Tips

Craigslist has posted a list of tips available to consumers who engage in transactions. It includes typical advice, such as meeting in a public place and letting family or friends know about the transaction.

Rasch has additional ideas for consumers, though he cautions: “None of these is  fool-proof.”

“The trick is to get as much information from the other party as you can without giving up much on yourself,” he said.  He recommends getting multiple e-mail addresses, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and phone numbers. Then, spend some time on Google backgrounding the person.  Take the first part of an e-mail address — such as the “bob1234″ part of bob1234@gmail.com — and Google that, which will often unearth alternate e-mail addresses.

“Anything to establish their identity,” he said.  “You can corroborate that this is a real, legitimate person that way. Real, legitimate people have online personas, they have a history. Or you can tell if an e-mail address was just created yesterday to facilitate a crime.”

Once contact is made, conduct as much business as possible online, he recommends, to create a digital trail and leave evidence in case something goes wrong.

“That will enhance your security,” he said.  The more elaborate and firm your requests, the more likely a criminal will simply move on to another mark, he pointed out.

Published in: on January 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

April Five Organization Accepting Donations To Help Injured CMPD Officer

To make a donation to help the injured Officer see the information below the article.

January 6, 2011 / http://www.ten8.wordpress.com

This information is compiled from articles from The Charlotte Observer and News 14 Carolina.

An organization founded by a retired Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police (CMPD) Officer and his wife is accepting donations to supplement the income of a fellow CMPD Officer who is on the mend recovering from injuries he received when his cruiser was rammed head on by a suspect that was fleeing from another Officer.

Heidi Hazrati, wife of Kayvan Hazrati, the retired CMPD Officer whose injury spawned the organization, says that the Officer’s family will need all the support it can get.

“It did wonders when Kayvan was shot, and the money during that time, when you have to leave work as a family member, take FMLA and no pay, it helps cover the bills,” she said.

Officer Kayvan Hazrati was shot in the head in 2006 as he was part of a team that was trying to serve an arrest warrant on a suspect wanted in connection with a sexual assault. He was forced to retire following his recovery.

The injured Officer in need of assistance is Keith Trietley, of CMPD’s North Tryon Division. He was headed outbound on The Plaza, responding to Grubb’s call for backup, when police said Rodriguez intentionally veered into oncoming traffic, causing a head-on collision. Witnesses estimated Rodriguez was going around 60 mph at the time of the crash.

The crash trapped Trietley in his car, which was mangled by the collision. Firefighters had to cut the roof off the patrol car to reach Trietley and pull him to safety. They used half a dozen rescue tools, including the Jaws of Life, to reach the officer and Rodriguez, who was trapped in his truck after the crash.

Both Trietley and Rodriguez were rushed to CMC.

Witnesses described the crash as extremely violent.

 “I heard a loud boom,” Ross McNear said. “I saw a lot of smoke and a lot of fire.”

 McNear said he ran to Trietley’s car after the crash to try and help. The car was on fire, he said.

 ”We all ran up to the car, trying to pull the door open, trying to get the policeman out,” McNear said. “We finally got the door open, there was a lot of fire shooting out of the car, and an officer told us to get back (and) find a fire extinguisher. So that’s what I did, I found a fire extinguisher.”

 McNear added: “We knew we couldn’t get him out. We knew he was pinned in. And he wasn’t responsive at first.”

 ”It’s devastating,” Faith Talmadge, who lives a few doors down from Trietley, said. “They’re such awesome people and just somebody to purposely do that — it’s unthinkable.”

 Investigators said Treitley was alert and conscious by the time he was loaded into an ambulance. His patrol car was equipped with roll cages for extra protection, police said.

 ”Fortunately, the officer was (also) wearing his seat belt and, in addition to other equipment in his car, it probably saved his life,” Chief Rodney Monroe said.

 Treitley has several broken bones, according to Monroe. He said the incident is a stark reminder of the risks officers take every day.

 ”Any time that you have any officer involved in a chase, involved in an accident, or involved in a shooting, it just makes you take pause and realize how dangerous this job is,” Monroe said.

 Police have obtained warrants for Rodriguez for assault with a deadly weapon, assault with a deadly weapon on a government officer, assault on an officer and fleeing to elude arrest. He will also be charged with DWI, police said.

 Rodriguez’s neighbor, Jose Orlando, called Rodriguez a friend of his, said he’s in the country legally and that he’s a regular churchgoer. Orlando was surprised to hear about the incident, saying Rodriguez is not the type of person he would picture being accused of crimes like these.

 Police said Rodriguez is from Charlotte, but is wanted in another state.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to help the injured Officer during his recovery can make checks or money orders out to  “April Five” with “Officer Keith Trietley” written in the memo line. The checks should be sent to: 10612-D Providence Road, PMB 745, Charlotte, NC 28277; The organizations’s web-site is http://www.aprilfive.org.

  Anyone wishing to send ‘Get Well’ wishes to the Officer should send them to:

Officer Keith Trietley, North Tryon Division, Care of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Dept., 601 East Trade Street, Charlotte, NC 28202

Published in: on January 6, 2011 at 6:28 am  Leave a Comment  

‘Fed up’ 82-Year-Old Nabs Accused Thieves in Christiana, Delaware

January 5, 2011 by ten8 (www.ten8.wordpress.com)

by Robin Brown / (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal

CHRISTIANA, Del. – An 82-year-old retired high school math teacher and business owner with diabetes and leukemia shot out a tire on a pickup truck loaded with stuff allegedly stolen from his house near here and held two men at gunpoint until police arrived.

New Castle County police took William G. Rafter, 41, of Clayton, Del., and Mark Sturgill, 30, of Bridgeton, N.J., into custody. They were charged with felony theft and conspiracy by state police, who said they stole a generator and metal items from the yard and put them in a truck at an apartment behind the house.

“I’d do it again,” Joe Harper said, “but not first thing in the morning.”

Harper says he was just getting up Dec. 10 at another house he owns a few miles away in Ogletown, Del., when his son David Harper, 53, called from work in Dover, Del. His son said a friend who works near the house called him saying thieves were robbing the place.

Joe Harper, an Army veteran who served as a combat engineer and instructor, grabbed his gun before driving over. Minutes later, Harper said he saw his stolen things in the truck and two men getting into it.

Walking to the men, gun in hand, Harper said, he yelled, “I’m an excellent shot and can shoot out your eyes at 60 paces.” He fired once at the driver’s side front tire and stopped about 6 feet in front of the truck.

“I said, If it moves toward me, the driver gets one right between the eyes,’ ” he said. After that, he added, “they didn’t give me much guff.”

Harper was not charged in the incident. But he said he wasn’t happy to be frisked, have his gun and pocketknife seized and spend more than an hour in the back of a police car.

His son got back his knife.

“But I’m still waiting for my gun,” Harper said. “They say it’s evidence.”

“Taking the situation into your own hands, you could get hurt,” said Officer First Class John Weglarz Sr. of New Castle County, Del. “You also have the possibility of someone else getting injured.”

Police confirm a burglary at the Chapman Road house in October. Harper recalls finding his belongings piled in the yard.

“They even had my toaster oven, my microwave and some new screen doors I had,” he said. “The police helped me carry everything back into the house, but they never made an arrest.”

The same month, he said, thieves stole more than $30,000 worth of kitchen equipment at another property he owns, the historic Shannon Inn, which he and his son are restoring here.

Published in: on January 5, 2011 at 2:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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