Police looking for thieves using Craigslist to lure victims

by: Diana Davis Updated:

ATHENS, Ga.,None - At least five people buying or selling items on Craigslist say they have been robbed. Now, Athens police are investigating the incidents.

Police have a warrant out for a suspect in at least two of the cases. Justin Baughns faces two counts of robbery and one of theft by taking. He is accused of stealing items such as cellphones.

Athens-Clarke County police said all the robbery victims either answered ads or posted items for sale on Craigslist.

"We've had four iPhones that have been posted on Craigslist and in two of those cases the phones themselves were actually snatched from the victims. In the other two, money was actually snatched from them," Capt. Clarence Holeman with the Athens-Clarke County police said.

One victim tried to sell an iPhone at a Subway restaurant near downtown Athens. The buyer snatched the phone and ran, police said.


Then, investigators said it happened again outside a Holiday Inn Express on Broad Street.

Another victim wanting to buy a phone had $160 snatched out of her hand at the Laurel Ridge apartments on Sussex Drive, investigators said.

The would-be seller of a diamond ring valued at more than $5,000 lost the most when the cash was snatched out of her hand when she met who she thought was a buyer.

Athens police said they believe there may be more victims. They fear some of those robbed may not be reporting the crimes to police due to embarrassment.

"In one particular case that we received a late report on, the victim stated that she really didn't think we could do anything about it, that's why she didn't report it, and that was actually one of the ones (through which) we were able to identify Mr. Baughns and obtain a warrant on him," Holeman said. "I urge anybody that's been a victim of this to report it to us because this is something that we need to stop. It could become an epidemic and we can't let it go on like that."

Police said the advice for anyone buying or selling online is obvious: meet in a public place, tell a friend where you are going, don't meet at night, don't allow a buyer or seller in your home or car, don't wire money for online deals and never bring cash to a meeting.

If the person you are dealing with is legitimate, they should be willing to accept a money order.

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