Irvine Police have arrested a 27-year-old man for allegedly stealing nearly $20,000 from people who'd responded to Craigslist ads he'd posted advertising a Mercedes and Rolex watch for sale.
Arnold Min Baek was arrested in a coffee shop at a shopping center in Lake Forest on Monday, which was a day before undercover Irvine cops had planned to meet him after responding to a new ad claiming his 2008 Mercedes C300 was for sale.
Baek allegedly had with him at the time of his arrest a computer he used to post the transactions and a replica firearm he allegedly pulled on unsuspecting would-be buyers.
The first crime is alleged to have happened Jan. 4, when a La Habra Heights man met the supposed seller of a Submariner Rolex watch at an upscale Irvine residence, according to a statement from Lt. Julia Engen, the Irvine Police spokeswoman.
The watch had been listed in the Craigslist as for $4,200, and the seller convinced the would-be buyer to drive him to a jeweler in order to have the Rolex appraised. But on the way there, the watch holder pulled out what appeared to be a black semi-automatic handgun and demanded the cash.
A Monterey Park couple carrying $15,000 had agreed to meet the seller of the 2008 Mercedes C300 advertised on Craigslist at the same Irvine residence on Jan. 16. When the couple arrived, the seller directed them to a nearby carwash and tried to get them to drive there see the car. When they declined, he drew a weapon fitting the description of the handgun used in the first robbery, Engen said.
Police say that in both cases:
* The items were advertised on Craigslist.
* Photographs of items listed were pulled from a public, online source.
* A cash amount was agreed to in advance.
* Meetings were arranged at an exact residential address in an upscale neighborhood and the suspect emerged from the side of the home to meet the victims at their car.
* The suspect used a ruse to lure or attempt to lure the victim to drive him somewhere.
* The suspect robbed the victims with what appeared to be a semi-automatic handgun.
* The suspect told the victims he needed the money because he has a child with special needs.
Police recommend when choosing to conduct transactions online:
* Always meet in a well-populated, public place.
* Take someone with you and let others know where you are going.
* Be leery of deals that sound "too good to be true."
* Never agree to large cash transactions prior to meeting the seller and confirming the legitimacy of the transaction.
* Carry a cell phone.