Man uses Craigslist to rob car buyers

May 5, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The online classifieds site craigslist.org is being linked to violent crime once again, but this time in the East Bay. Police say a robber is using the site to lure potential car buyers into the Oakland hills, just as Craigslist is already facing pressure to modify its site.

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The Rockridge Terrace neighborhood in the Oakland Hills is on high alert, after a masked man robbed two men yesterday. Police say the victims drove to the 6,000 block of Contra Costa Road after responding to a used car ad on Craigslist. The man who placed the ad, ended up taking their money instead and shooting one of the victims during a struggle.

"It's very difficult geographically to get out of that street so it makes it a good place to trap somebody," said Elizabeth Durand, a neighbor.

This is the latest incident involving people using Craigslist to carry out crimes. Phillip Markoff, the so-called Craigslist killer, is in custody for attacking women who advertised on the site in Boston.

Now, Attorney General Henry McMaster of South Carolina is threatening to prosecute Craigslist's CEO if the site continues to run ads related to prostitution and pornography.

"It's nothing but filth, it is advertisement for prostitution. It is ugly, it is harmful," says Attorney General McMaster.

Craigslist, though, insists the South Carolina attorney general has no legal basis and the digital rights group, Electronic Frontier Foundation agrees. Senior staff attorney Matt Zimmerman cites a 1996 law passed by congress.

"To take the focus off of the intermediaries, that is the forums, the people who are in the middle and put the focus on where I think it should belong which is people who are misbehaving," said Zimmerman.

As for the case in Oakland, the masked man took off running. As police work on trying to track him down, they offer the public some tips.

"If the buyer is being asked to bring cash, a large amount of cash, you may want to bring a whole bunch of people with you or don't show up," said Oakland Police spokesman Jeff Thomason.

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