By Meg Peters
A string of Craigslist scams around metro Detroit was halted at the front door of one Orion Township resident’s house when the 18- year-old man realized he had been paid with counterfeit money.
The victim, Casen Jorgensen, who just moved from Waterford, was selling his MacBook computer on Craigslist for $800, and had told a Detroit resident, Anthony Lamar Henderson, his address in the 800 block of N. Long Lake Blvd.
When 22-year-old Henderson and another man arrived at the address the night of April 6, Jorgensen met them on the street with the laptop computer.
“He called me and told me they wanted to come take a look at it, and I told them it was brand new, and he said I want to come get it right now. He sounded like a regular guy on the phone,” Jorgensen said.
Henderson allegedly paid for the computer with counterfeit $100 and $50 bills.
“He counted out the $800 right in front of me. It looked real, it felt real, but I saw that the money was fake,” Jorgensen said.
He turned around to confront Henderson, but saw what looked like the barrel of a gun.
“I just ran inside to get my brother,” he said.
The suspects took off.
Jorgensen and his brother hopped in their truck to chase them down, heading south on M-24.
“As soon as I passed the BelleTire I got behind them. They looked right at my brother and me and knew it was us, and made the next U-turn. It just happened so fast.”
While on the phone with the Oakland County dispatch center Jorgensen was advised to discontinue the chase in case the suspects were armed.
At that point the boys had a really good description of the getaway vehicle and the police took over.
Auburn Hills Police observed the suspects traveling south on I-75 in Auburn Hills and made a stop near Wattles Rd. in Troy. The computer was located inside their vehicle.
They were taken to the Orion Township station to be interviewed, and both suspects were later transported and lodged at the Oakland County Jail. The accomplice was turned over to Livonia Police for further investigation, Orion Substation Commander Lieutenant Dan Toth said.
Henderson, the driver and main suspect, was arraigned April 8 at the 52-3 District Court on two counts. The first was uttering and publishing counterfeit bills. It is a five-year felony. The second charge was larceny by false pretense. It is a one-year misdemeanor.
Judge Nancy Carniak set a $50,000 bond and Henderson has remained at OCJ.
“They claim there was no gun, but our victim thinks there was. We were unable to substantiate that part of the report,” Toth said.
An extensive search of the suspects’ route did not produce a weapon, and similar crime reports from neighboring communities also did not cite any weapons were used.
According to Toth, the suspects admitted to seven or eight similar transactions in metro Detroit over the last month, including buying an Xbox video game system in Pontiac for $300 in counterfeit money, and a $300 pair of Air Jordan sneakers the driver had in his possession from Harper Woods.
Toth said an exact match of counterfeit $100 bill was used in Harper Woods and Orion.
Orion Township detectives are also working with Livonia Police and Warren Police involving similar Craigslist transactions in order to organize other charges.
According to reports, the suspects would use smaller legitimate U.S. bills to strengthen the confidence of their victims. The suspects tended to meet their victims at night, in the dark, so it would be harder to tell what cash was counterfeit.
“These people are very good at gaining their victims’ confidence. That’s how it starts. They make some personal connection with them. They may even call them on the phone, and tell them all these lies to help grow their case,” Toth said.
For example, the suspects lied to Jorgensen and said they were college students.
Toth said to always be suspicious when dealing with folks online.
“They’re going to look for an easy victim,” he said. “Whether it’s Craigslist, eBay or other social media sites, if you don’t know who you are dealing with, you have to be suspicious, and at the end of the day never ever provide any information online, over the phone, or to somebody at your front door. You make up the rules.”
Toth said it is better to meet during the day, during regular business hours, at a public place with video surveillance systems. If the buyers come up with an excuse, the seller should consider them suspicious and stop the transaction.
“For any legitimate transaction with an actual item to sell, the buyers will meet at a very public place, like a police department or Secretary of State office,” he said. “When our police station is open, feel free to come in our public lobby. If someone doesn’t want to do that, that’s an indicator that something is wrong.”
Jorgensen said he has learned a lot.
“Just be careful out there on Craigslist,” he said. “I honestly can’t believe there are people out there that do that kind of stuff. It’s just craziness.”
By Meg Peters