HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Authorities are asking for help identifying a thief who could be targeting females who sell items on OfferUp. Two Tampa Bay area women fell victim to the thief, who took high-priced electronics.
The Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the recent robbery cases in the victims posted ads on OfferUp to sell electronics. The females were both robbed during the transactions.
OfferUp says it makes buying and selling simple. The site connects buyers and sellers who live in the same area. Both Tampa victims connected with the suspect on the app. Investigators say they text messaged with the thief to arrange meeting places. In each case the suspect asked to look at the merchandise to verify it.
Once the crook got the devices in his hands, he drove off and left the victims empty-handed, investigators said.
“It was really just a disguise to get them there so that they could get robbed,” Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Larry McKinnon said of OfferUp. “This really could happen to anybody at any time and this isn’t the first time it’s happened.”
Two cases in Tampa
Investigators say on July 5 a man responded to an ad placed on OfferUp for the sale of an iPad. The suspect and female seller agreed to meet to conduct the transaction.
At 8:30 p.m. they met at 17004 Palm Point Dr. in Tampa. The seller held the iPad in her hand as she approached the purchaser, who was sitting in a silver Cadillac, possibly a CTS or STS.
The purchaser asked to hold the iPad so he could verify the serial number using his smart phone. While the female victim was holding the iPad, it sat rested on the door frame of the suspect’s open window. The suspect suddenly grabbed the iPad, valued at over $1,000, and drove away in his vehicle. Authorities have released a photo of the suspect.
On July 4 a man responded to an OfferUp ad for an iPhone 6+ that was for sale. Both parties agreed via text messaging to meet at 5013 Bordeaux Village Place in Tampa.
At 7:41 p.m., while standing at the rear of the vehicle, the seller allowed the purchaser to hold the phone, as he requested to verify the chip worked. The thief sat in his vehicle with the door open. He then backed up, striking the victim, knocking her to the ground.
The suspect left with the iPhone, which is valued at $750. He drove toward Fletcher Avenue in a silver or gray, 4-door, Cadillac STS 4.
“The woman was standing there and she was, kept her phone on the trunk,” said Mani Duggireddy, who witnessed one of the deals go down. “All of a sudden, that guy said, ‘Let me see that phone,’ and just ran away.”
OfferUp provided the following statement to News Channel 8:
“Providing a trusted experience for our users is a primary focus at OfferUp and we do not tolerate criminal activity. We are working closely with local law enforcement on their investigations.”
OfferUp provides guidelines for secure and safe transactions.
Investigators ask for help finding suspect
The suspect is described as a dark-skinned black male in his 20’s. He’s 5’10” to 6’0″ and weighs 140 – 150 pounds. He’s very skinny, with short black hair. He was last seen wearing a black hoodie and black shorts, with a white stripe down the side. He had socks and slides on.
Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay is offering a reward of up to $3,000 for information leading to the arrest of the suspect. Anyone with any information about the suspect should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477), report anonymously online at http://www.crimestopperstb.com or send a mobile tip using the P3 Tips Mobile application. People providing tips can remain anonymous. Crime Stoppers must be contacted first in order to be eligible for a cash reward.