Houston police are investigating a possible Craigslist crime ring based in the heart of Houston.
Officers have identified some 20 cases that are so similar that they believe they are related. All of the cases originate on Craigslist.
Sometimes the suspects pose as sellers and then steal the victim's money without giving them anything in return. In other cases, the suspects contact sellers and set up a meeting to buy something. Instead, the thieves steal the item and take off.
The meeting spots that the suspects suggest are all in close proximity to one another: Montrose, Freedman's Town, the 4th Ward and in several cases, the suspects lured their victims to the parking lot of Allen Parkway Village.
"The transaction for money is made and the suspect makes an excuse to go to the apartment to get the item that is for sale and is never seen again," Officer Michael Ybanez explained.
One of the victims got a good look at the man who stole her iPhone. She helped police with a composite sketch.
Ybanez said a 27-year-old college student posted an ad on Craigslist to sell her old iPhone. A potential buyer emailed her and they agreed to meet on at about 12:30 p.m. on April 27 in a parking lot in the 200 block of West Gray.
When the student pulled up, a man approached her car and handed her an envelope. He then reached inside her car and grabbed the iPhone that was sitting in her lap, police said.
The envelope was empty.
In that case, the suspect was described as black, in his 20s and 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 8 inches with a thin build.
Police said that, in most of the cases, the man who talks with the victim by phone to arrange the meeting is usually not the same man who shows up to rob them. The victims said the man on the phone sounds more sophisticated, leading police to believe several people are working together to commit the crimes.
Anyone with information is asked to call the HPD Major Offenders Division at 713-308-3100 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.