Many people turn to Craigslist when looking for a good deal on everything from pets to electronics. The website works because buyers trust sellers to not take advantage of them. Unfortunately, when a trusting buyer spends a significant amount of money on an item only to discover the seller was not the rightful owner, that person may understandably become confused and angry and may even unwittingly engage in acts of extortion.
Recently, a 19-year-old student at Southeastern Louisiana University purchased a laptop from someone on Craigslist for $900. Unable to get into the computer, he called a female student to get the password. As it turned out, the female student was in the process of reporting that same laptop as stolen at the LSU Police Department when the man called her.
She told the man that the $2,000 computer was hers and she wanted it back. The man, likely confused and not quite sure how to respond, said she would have to buy the laptop back from him, as he had paid good money for it. At this point, a police detective pretended to be the female student’s boyfriend and negotiated a buyback of the laptop for $1,500.
They agreed to meet at a truck stop in Hammond for the exchange. When the man who bought the laptop showed up, instead of getting money, he was arrested and charged with extortion and illegal possession of stolen things. If convicted of possession of stolen things, he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, and a hefty fine of up to $3,000. The extortion charge carries a maximum penalty of one to 15 years behind bars.
After his arrest, the man led police to the University student who originally sold the stolen laptop on Craigslist. As it turned out, that man was carrying a second stolen laptop at the time. Police charged this man with two counts of felony theft and booked him into East Baton Rouge Parish prison.
Source: The Daily Reveille, “Students charged with laptop thefts,” Xerxes A. Wilson, 3 March 2011