MORRISVILLE, North Carolina – An online encounter Wednesday morning in the Kitts Creek neighborhood led to a 16-year-old boy being robbed at gunpoint, police say.
Investigators say the boy tried to sell an iPhone to three men he met on Facebook Marketplace.
Police arrested Michael Purcell, 18; Jaylin Beal, 21; and Emannuel Purcell, 26. Authorities are holding them at the Wake County Detention Center. The three men are charged with armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, possession of a stolen firearm, assault by pointing a firearm, possession of a counterfeit instrument , obtaining property under false pretenses, possession of a firearm by a criminal and possession of marijuana.
The teenager tried to sell the three men an iPhone through the Facebook Marketplace feature.
“[It’s] just a really scary situation for anyone, let alone a teenager,” said Morrisville Police Chief Pete Acosta.
Acosta said the three men tried to buy the iPhone with counterfeit money.
“When they were confronted about it, they pulled out guns and we ended up robbing the victim [using] strength,” Acosta said.
Police say they have arrested three men as part of an undercover investigation. They were caught selling the iPhone online. Police also seized another stolen cell phone, a MacBook computer and two firearms from the same suspects.
Acosta said interactions with strangers should never take place in a private place. Acosta suggested using a marked and camera-monitored location where transactions can be made safely.
There are several options for users and online shoppers to discover, buy, and sell products: This includes Facebook Marketplace, Craiglist, and Offerup, among others.
As the parent of a 13- and 18-year-old, Morrisville resident Clayton Sinegal said he was troubled to hear what happened earlier this week.
“For a child to sell an iPhone or anything minor, you would have to have your parents or an older adult, sibling, or sister with you, so something like that isn’t going to happen,” Sinegal said. .
Acosta echoed Sinegal’s sentiments.
“Don’t do these types of transactions on your own,” Acosta said. “Always have someone come with you.
Sinegal said he uses online sites to make purchases.
“Sometimes you look at it, you find interesting things,” Clayton Sinegal said.
From TVs to tires, Sinegal said he had been lucky to pick up some good business online and had met the seller in person.
“I asked [a] police officer who was there, ‘could he watch from afar while I was buying tires?’ said sinegal.
Sinegal met in public instead of his Morrisville home.
“It’s just not good practice to use your home as a hangout,” Acosta said.
In addition to meeting in a public place, Acosta provided several tips on how to avoid being scammed or robbed. According to him, the police department offers places designed for secure exchanges.