Craigslist is where people go to buy and sell everything from furniture, to cars, to apartments and houses. But because Craigslist is a marketplace free for all, things can get a little bit questionable at times. Here are some of the wildest Craigslist scandals and pranks that have gone terribly, terribly wrong.
In 2008, an Oregon couple in their late twenties was arrested and taken into custody “on charges of first-degree theft, conspiracy to commit second-degree burglary and two counts of conspiracy to commit computer crime,” according to mailtribune.com. Amber and Brandon Herbert had posted two fraudulent Craiglist ads, saying that the items in a random home were abandoned and were free for the taking.
The home was, in fact, not abandoned and homeowner Robert Salisbury found out about the ads from someone who contacted him and asked him about the ad. When Salisbury arrived at his property, he found dozens of people rummaging through his stuff. As it turned out, the Herberts posted the ad in hopes of covering up their own previous burglary of Salisbury’s property.
The Jealous Ex
Twenty-year-old Wisconsin woman, Kari Heath, was charged with a felony count of causing harm via identity theft in 2009. Heath posed as her ex-boyfriend, Joseph Strasburg, and posted an ad in the “casual encounters” section of Craigslist with the request that men call him at work to “talk dirty to him.” Heath even provided Strasburg’s work phone number and several private explicit photos of him.
When Strasburg received a call and didn’t know what was going on, he alerted the police. Strasburg even received a text from Heath in which she confessed to the prank. Heath was later given a misdemeanor charge and was ordered to write a letter of apology to her ex, in addition to performing 40 hours of community service.
Babies For Sale
If you think that selling babies on Craiglist is unheard of, please remember that this is the Internet, where anything is possible and there are some really twisted people out there. There have been numerous accounts of people selling babies on Craiglist and whether or not is was a joke, the police were always alerted and arrests were made.
In one case, a man named Patrick Lee Ryan faced charges of buying or selling a child and committing a computer crime in 2008. In what was allegedly a prank, Ryan posted an ad for a $1,000 baby, saying that the seller needed the money for “tweak.” Ryan was held on bail for $35,000.
Craigslist’s Source Of Revenue
According to a report by Business Insider, “explicit” ads account for one-third of Craigslist’s revenue. Many of those ads are illegal prostitution, which has caused the company to come under investigation by law-enforcement. In 2010, the New York Times reported that Craigslist’s revenue was estimated to be around $36 million from prostitution alone.
In a related case, a New York woman was arrested in 2010 for an ad that she posted seeking “upscale men” to engage in explicit acts with. The man she met up with was an undercover cop, who arrested her after she accepted $200. The woman was a registered nurse and divorced mom of four.
Love Thy Neighbor
In 2010 a Connecticut man, Philip James Conran, posted an ad on Craigslist while posing as a bored soccer mom who requested that men come to her house to “go all the way” as a group, saying she wanted to “please as many as I can before I go to work!” Conran provided the address of a neighbor with whom he was in the middle of an embittered feud.
People started coming to the neighbor’s home, but luckily they were turned away and their license plates were noted. The police were alerted and charged Conran with reckless endangerment, harassment, criminal trespass and risk of injury to a minor. While the neighbor had children living in her home, one of the ad respondents allegedly showed up to the wrong house and groped an 18-year-old girl.
Held At Gunpoint
Police across America have warned about fraudulent Craigslist ads because of robberies that many innocent people have experienced. People will post ads on Craigslist or respond to the ads to lure people into their malicious trap.
In 2007 in Chicago, police arrested three people on charges of armed robbery, assault and unlawful use of weaponry. After many victims had come forward with stories of meeting up with the intention to exchange electronics, they were robbed at gunpoint instead. The police held a sting operation and found three men who were placing fake ads on Craigslist to rob people of their items instead of buying them.
Of Course, Drugs Are Involved
Of all the things you can buy and sell on Craigslist, of course, illegal drugs would be one of them. Many have tried and many have failed by getting caught by the authorities. In 2010, two California men were arrested for selling marijuana “clones,” which are hybrid seedlings of weed that have been engineered to have increased potency.
In the report from the Los Angeles Times, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Department spokesman Drew Sugars has said, “Some people mistakenly think that the Compassionate Use Act allows them to sell marijuana freely. That’s not how the law was written and Craigslist is not a collective.”
The Craigslist Killer
In 2009, Boston University medical student Philip Markoff was indicted for first-degree murder, armed robbery, and other charges. He is known as the Craigslist Killer because he met his victims through Craigslist, two of them through ads offering erotic services. He was suspected of three robberies, one of which ended in murder.
Julissa Brisman offered masseuse services on Craigslist and was later found dead in a Boston hotel. After he was taken to jail, Markoff attempted suicide multiple times and was found dead in his cell one year later. The story had gained national traction and was even made into a Lifetime Network movie.
Steve Phillips Scandal
In 2009, ESPN was in the middle of a scandal between one of its baseball analysts, former Mets manager Steve Phillips, and a production assistant, Brooke Hundley. But the affair was not as scandalous as you would think, according to a report from deadspin.com, which said that although the two engaged in dirty activities, they never actually took a roll in the hay.
Amid the scandal, the New York Post reported that Hundley was apparently upset over the situation and hired someone over Craigslist to harass Philips’s wife. Hundley hired a waitress from Connecticut, who said that she and Hundley called the wife and she was given a script that revealed Philips was cheating. Hundley had already sued ESPN for defamation but apparently needed more justice from the entire debacle.
George Weber Murder
Also in 2009, ABC Radio personality from New York, George Weber, was found murdered in his Brooklyn apartment. When he was found, his hands and feet were bound and he had been stabbed 50 times.
They found the culprit to be 16-year-old John Katehis, who confessed to the murder when he was apprehended. Katehis said that he and Weber met through a personal ad on Craigslist that asked for “rough” relations. Authorities investigating the case believe that Katehis and Weber had an ongoing relationship before the ultimate murder. Katehis, who confessed to also being a Satanist and sadomasochist, was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Shirtless Christopher Lee
Republican representative Christopher Lee of New York resigned from his position in 2011 after gawker.com released the story of his scandalous Craigslist encounter. Lee had allegedly met a woman through Craigslist after she responded to his ad where he lied about being a 39-year-old divorced lobbyist (Lee was 46 at the time).
Lee and the woman began exchanging emails and he even sent her a shirtless photo of himself, in which he is flexing his arms and chest. After receiving the photo, the woman searched up Lee on the Internet and discovered his true identity—and the fact that he was married with a young child.
Surviving A Craigslist Killer
When Scott Davis responded to a Craigslist ad about a potential job, he did not know what he was getting himself into. He got into a truck with a man named Jack and his nephew, who drove him into the country, as Davis believed he was going to do farm work. When they came to a remote area, Davis was ordered to get out of the car, when they began to shoot him. Luckily, Davis escaped and lived to tell his tale.
Four weeks later, “Jack” was revealed to be Richard Beasley and his young accomplice was 16-year-old Brogan Rafferty. They had been luring men out to the woods with fake job offers on Craigslist and murdering them — they had already done so a total of three times. Rafferty, in addition to providing transportation, helped Beasley dig holes and conceal the dead bodies.
The Roommate With A Secret
In 2003, a New York man named Brian Boucher posted an ad on Craigslist looking for a roommate to help him pay rent, even offering the only bedroom in the small one-bedroom apartment. A man named John Williams answered the ad and moved into the room. For weeks, Williams would stay locked in his room, only briefly leaving his room and returning without saying a word.
As time went on, Williams would be gone for months at a time. Eventually, Boucher broke into the bedroom to see why his new roommate was so mysterious. In the room, Boucher found that Williams had private information about Boucher and all his family members. This prompted Boucher to do a Google search of Williams, only to find out that Williams was wanted for a jewel heist in San Francisco!
In Need Of Babysitter
In 2007, 19-year-old Michael John Anderson posted an ad on Craigslist, posing as a mother who needed a babysitter the next day. Katherine Anne Olson was a 24-year-old college graduate who nannied part time while she tried to pursue a career in acting. Olson responded to Anderson’s ad, not knowing what she was about to get herself into.
She arrived at Anderson’s home the next day and upon meeting him, was led up to his bedroom. She was shot in the back with a .357 magnum, dragged outside, and stuffed into the trunk of Anderson’s car. Anderson drove off and abandoned the car a few blocks away. He took Olson’s cell phone, destroyed it, and wrapped it in a bloody towel before disposing of it in the public trash can. Little did he know, his name was written on the towel and two years later he was sentenced to life in prison.
A Shallow Grave
In 2010, 26-year-old Jennifer Papain was a prostitute who was offering her services on Craigslist when she got a response from 23-year-old Chad Johnson. The two agreed to meet up and Johnson was going to pay Papain $80 for her services.
Johnson paid Papain before the deed was done, but somewhere along the way asked for his money back. When Papain refused to return the money, Johnson got aggressive and began to strangle Papain to the point where she died. Johnson buried her in a shallow grave, but her disappearance led police to discover her body and to find out that Johnson was previously convicted of assault in which he choked his victims.
The Deadly Nanny
In 2011, 70-year-old Mary Jane Scanlon put up an ad on Craigslist requesting a caregiver in Pleasant Hill, California. The woman who answered the ad and got the job was a woman named Diane Warrick. Scanlon should have done a background check on Warrick, because shortly after Warrick was hired, Scanlon was found stabbed to death in her bed.
It turns out, Warrick had a criminal past. In 1988 she robbed a pharmacy in Colorado and in 1997 she was confined to a mental hospital for another pharmacy incident, in which she shot at police and took hostages. Warrick claimed that she was hallucinating and thought she was stabbing her father when she was attacking Scanlon. She was sentenced to 31 years to life in prison.
The Diamond Ring
In 2010, James Sanders of Edgewood, Washington decided to sell a diamond ring on Craigslist, hoping to bring in some extra money to support the family. People who claimed to be a young married couple answered the ad, so Sanders invited them to his home so they could look at the ring.
The exchange turned into a home invasion when the “husband” of the young couple suddenly pulled out a gun and ordered everyone on the floor. Sanders was home with his wife and two adolescent sons. Two more shady characters showed up and began getting rough with the Sanders family. In an effort to protect his family, Sanders was shot and killed. Three days later, the suspects were arrested and collectively received 79 to 123 years in prison.
The Miranda Barbour Case
Miranda Barbour is a young woman from Alaska with an extensive past of criminal activity and mental health instability. In 2013, 18-year-old Barbour was married with a baby girl and suddenly decided one day that she wanted to kill someone with her husband. She posted an ad on Craigslist looking for men who “hated their wives.”
She got a response from a 42-year-old man named Troy LaFerrara and the two decided to meet up. Barbour went to pick up LaFerrara, with her husband hidden under a blanket in the backseat. When LaFerrara got in the car, Barbour’s husband strangled him from behind while Barbour stabbed him 20 times. After disposing of the body and having dinner, they were arrested the next day.
In 2015, Michelle Wilkins was an expectant mother looking for maternity clothes. She found a good deal on Craigslist and was soon on her way to meet Dynel Lane, who was selling the clothes. After chatting with Lane for a bit at her house, Wilkins was led to the basement where the clothes supposedly were. Suddenly, Lane attacked Wilkins by smashing a lamp over her head and using the broken glass to cut her throat.
Wilkins put up a struggle to save the life of her unborn baby, but Lane took a kitchen knife and began to cut Wilkins’s baby from her womb. Lane left Wilkins to bleed to death, but fortunately, Wilkins was conscious enough to call 911. She was taken to the hospital and Lane was sentenced to 48 years in prison.
Jason Fortuny: The Ultimate Troll
In 2006, Jason Fortuny posed as a woman on Craigslist looking for muscular men who wanted to roughly engage in a particular act. The personal ad asked for pictures and information. Over 100 men responded to the ad with the requested information, not knowing what they were getting themselves into.
Fortuny then took the responses of each man and posted it on a Livejournal page. Soon, all their pictures and personal contact information were live for the world to see. Fortuny claimed the prank was an “experiment” and thought he would get away with what he did, but he soon found himself in a civil lawsuit for almost $75,000.