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Cops probe string of Craigslist robberies in NE Philly

Philly police say armed robbers have pounced on seven victims.

YOU KNOW how it is during the holidays: Everybody's looking for a bargain.

A group of armed crooks has taken advantage of some shoppers who were searching for too-good-to-be-true deals on Craigslist by luring them to Northeast Philadelphia, and robbing them at gunpoint.

At least seven people have fallen victim to the dangerous scam in the last month, said Lt. Dennis Rosenbaum, of Northeast Detectives.

Gunshots were fired by the thieves in one instance, but so far no one has been injured.

"If you have someone claiming to sell an $800 product for $100 or $200, obviously there's an issue," Rosenbaum said. "Sometimes if a deal seems too good to be true, it really is."

All the robberies have taken place within a few blocks in Frankford. The victims all expected to pick up an iPhone 6 from a seller they'd found on Craigslist.

According to police, the heists unfolded as follows:

* Nov. 11: The first victim is robbed about 7 p.m. on Conklin Street near Duffield by three black men who appeared to be in their early 20s, one wearing a black sweater with the word Dolphins printed in pink letters.

* Nov. 27: A victim travels to Duffield Street near Dyre and is met about 7 p.m. by a black man in his early 20s with a goatee and wearing a black hooded jacket. The robber pulls a semiautomatic handgun from his waistband, says, "You know what this is," and takes $200 from the victim, according to police records.

* Dec. 12: A victim is met on Duffield Street near Wakeling about 6:15 p.m. by a black man with a mustache and wearing a green hooded sweatshirt and green skullcap. The robber shows the victim an iPhone 5, then pulls out a handgun and says, "Give that s--- up."

* Dec. 13: A victim travels to a specific address on Duffield. The property appears to be abandoned, according to police documents, so the victim starts to leave. The robber - a clean-shaven black man in his early 20s wearing dark clothing and carrying a black Jansport backpack - approaches and pulls out a semiautomatic handgun, demanding the victim's cash and cellphone.

* Dec. 14: A man shows up on Marlowe Street near Dyre about 10:15 a.m. and is met by two black men in their early 20s, one wearing a black True Religion hat. One gets into the back seat of the man's car, pulls out a handgun and makes off with the victim's cash and phone.

* Dec. 15: Another victim goes to the same address on Duffield from Dec. 13 and is met by a twenty-something black man who asks if he is there to buy an iPhone. When he says yes, the robber pulls out a gun and demands the victim's money. The victim flees, hearing the robber fire two gunshots.

* Dec. 16: A Craigslist user shows up yet again at the same Duffield address. Two twenty-something black men approach the man's car. One gets inside, pulls out a gun and robs the victim.

Rosenbaum is quite familiar with Craigslist-related scams.

He worked on a spate of similar robberies several years ago, one of which ended with the June 2013 murder of a South Jersey man in West Oak Lane.

Daniel Cook, 27, believed he was going to buy a Yamaha Banshee ATV from Thomas Coffee in exchange for $1,000 and a PlayStation, a deal hashed out over Craigslist. Coffee, 25, allegedly shot Cook three times, and was held for trial over the summer.

"People get so intrigued with the idea of getting that big deal that they forget about their safety and go to a strange place, and that's where it happens," Rosenbaum said.

Some cities have designated parking lots at police districts as safe spaces where Craigslist transactions can be conducted, Rosenbaum said.

"The police don't have to be involved with [the transaction], but there's no reason why you shouldn't look to do these deals in well-lit public places," he said.

Tipsters can contact Northeast Detectives at 215-686-3153.


On Twitter: @dgambacorta