Filing A Police Report On Craigslist Scammer Leads To His Arrest

Reader Chris writes:

Awhile back, I sold a ton of video games on Craigslist here in San Francisco. A buyer contacted me and agreed to purchase them and I was delighted. I didn’t have the time to post everything on eBay separately and I wanted to get the transaction over as quickly as possible. A week later, I received a Wal-mart money order in the mail and shipped off the packages.

Little did I know that money orders are just as easily faked as any other form of payment, so after a day or so after depositing the bogus money order into my Wells Fargo account, I got notice that my ATM card had been put on hold, as well as my checking and savings account funds. Confused, I stopped by my local Wells Fargo, who alerted me that the money order was fraudulent and that more than likely, their Security and Fraud department would be permanently closing my accounts. Frustrated, I tried to ask them why I would be the one getting the punishment when I was an unknowing victim of fraud. Unfortunately, the on-location staff had no answer and suggested I give the actual department a call on the phone. But first, they would fill out a fraud report and forward it to their Security and Fraud department.

So, I did, and got even more frustrating results. The man I spoke to was disinterested and dismissive, telling me that I should probably just prepare for my accounts to be closed. When I asked if there was any sort of recourse or action I could undertake to try to keep my accounts open, he simply said, “that’s not going to do you any good.” Even more insane was the fact that they claimed not to have received the fraud report I had personally filled out at the Wells Fargo location near my place of work.

Frustrated, out of the items I had sold, out of the money I had been scammed out of, and staring at the bleak possibility of having my credit or bank accounts ruined, I decided to do what I think most people out there don’t do – file a police report.

I’m not overly cautious person, but I was glad that I had saved every single email from the scammer, from the first email where he contacted me to the last. As expected, emailing the scammer didn’t do much good, as he wouldn’t response, despite the fact that I had put read-receipts on the emails I sent him and had gotten confirmation that they had been open. But, I did noticed that the scammer apparently was using an AOL account to access the Internet. And, if he was using AOL, he was probably also using AOL Instant Messenger. So, I added his AOL name to my AIM buddy list and voila, there he was.

Our exchange went down pretty much as I figured it was. I confronted him about the fake money order, he tried to defend himself by saying he had purchased them off eBay. I laid out to him exactly all the steps I was going through to protect myself (filing a police report in San Francisco, filing a police report in Pennsylvania where the scammer resided, filing a report with the State Attorney General’s Office, etc). At that point he got extremely defensive, threatened me, and referred me to his legal counsel, which conveniently enough had a Yahoo email address (go figure).

After filing reports for what seemed like forever, I expected nothing to come of my claims. I was ready to cut my losses and learn a valuable lesson at the same time. Well, I learned my lesson, but was entirely surprised when I was contacted by a computer crimes officer in Pennsylvania who was investigating the scammer and needed my help. Luckily, I had saved all of my emails with him, including the AIM chat logs. Needless to say, this ended up being enough to get this guy arrested. Here is the link to the newspaper article that ran when the guy was arrested:It seems like he had been scamming folks for some time, but I’m happy to see that maybe, in some sort of way, my case was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Although it looks like I won’t be getting back either the money I was scammed out of or the items I sent the scammer, this whole situation does give me some renewed faith in the police and the fact that reporting a crime, even one originating on the seemingly lawless Internet, can result in some justice.

Oh, and to give you an update on Wells Fargo, both the investigating officer and myself tried repeatedly to get them to fax us a copy of the fake money order for use in the criminal investigation. And, both times, Wells Fargo actually faxed both of us the wrong money order (and at that, money order’s that are obviously from someone else’s account). Needless to say, I think I’ll be changing banks very soon.

But for those folks out there who’ve gotten scammed, I hope my story gives you a bit of hope that scammers do get punished.



Here’s the newspaper article that Chris mentioned. Turns out the guy was already on parole for sexual assault! Chris is like Batman!

Known Internet scammer in county prison for fake money orders

CENTER TWP — A reputed Internet scam artist is in the Butler County Prison today following his arrest Thursday for allegedly sending a counterfeit money order to a California man for more than 200 video games.

The case, according to state police Cpl. John Stepansky, a computer crime investigator at the Butler barracks, should serve as a reminder: let the online buyer beware.

Federal authorities already suspected Justin M. Castilyn, 28, of Holyoke Road, Center Township of scamming eight victims when the state police arrested him in the latest case.

Police said Castilyn by way of, an online classified ads site, agreed in August to buy 212 video games from a San Francisco man.

The seller told police he shipped the games to Castilyn’s home after receiving a money order for $1,950. But then learned the money order was fake.

Stepansky said that during his investigation he learned of the defendant’s past victims after contacting the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership of the FBI and the nonprofit National White Collar Crime Center.

Castilyn in those other cases failed to either provide merchandise or pay for products from online transactions.
Police got a search warrant on Thursday and seized two computers as well as 12 other suspected counterfeit money orders from the defendant’s house, documents said.

District Judge Lewis Stoughton arraigned Castilyn on charges of forgery, access device fraud, receiving stolen property and unlawful use of a computer.

Already on parole for a 2000 conviction in a sexual assault case in Butler County, Castilyn remains in the county jail on $75,000 bond.

Police reminded computer users to be alert when buying products online. Stepansky recommended dealing with reputable businesses.

Known Internet scammer in county prison for fake money orders
[Butler Eagle]


Edit Your Comment

  1. elroyerni says:

    Wow, good article. Good job Chris!

  2. isn’t the whole point behind craigslist to DO and deal stuff LOCALLY, and not across the country?

  3. econobiker says:

    Based on this and other bank stories on Consumerist, it seems like banks don’t give a rat’s ass about fake documents until they are out money. I’d suspect that Wells-Fargo figured that you are the scammer or would sue them for accepting the money order or something and that they have a deliberate policy of shutting down accounts affected by fake checks/money orders.

    Yet they will allow people to withdraw real money as cashiers checks to send to Nigeria with no qualms whatsoever…

  4. geekpdx says:

    Wait… what?

    I’m sorry that Chris got scammed, sure. But what happened to a little personal responsibility? Here’s the link titled “Avoiding Scams & Fraud” that’s at the top of every Craigslist for sale page and individual ad: “Avoiding Scams & Fraud”

  5. Coelacanth says:

    One more reason to put in a disclaimer that you refuse to ship items until the check/money order you receive had time to clear.

  6. lincolnparadox says:

    Not that I would ever bank with Wells Fargo, but I wonder if there was any obvious reason why they immediately treated Chris like a criminal? Your bank is supposed to watch out for you. That’s why you let them hang onto your money.

  7. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    I think you need to change the title of the post. It makes it sound like the guy who filed the police report got arrested.

    Not too long ago, someone hacked into my ebay account and posted a bunch of bootleg DVD box sets. They shut down my ebay account, but I eventually got it restored.

    I went on paypal and someone with an IP address from Spain tried to hack into my account there. I would give anything to get my hands on this person.

  8. darkened says:

    As much as i hate police I’m glad they did justice for some one… finally.

  9. ? graffiksguru says:

    Atta boy Chris!
    I probably would have tried to deposit the money order first before shipping off the games though.

  10. rasbach says:

    Wells Fargo treats all their customers like criminals- so their action comes as no surprise to me.

  11. crescentia says:

    Wells Fargo is terrible. Run as far away from them as possible.

  12. Buran says:

    SUE HIM. Then if he doesn’t pay, garnish his wages when he gets out and/or get a seize order. The cops will sell his stuff to pay your judgement!

    Will serve him right.

    Yes, you should have waited and/or only accepted USPS money orders (it becomes federal mail fraud if they’re fake or you don’t get everything you should) but honestly, I can’t blame you for assuming stuff was legit.

    The bank closing all your accounts for being a victim is the ultimate blame the victim stupidity. Definitely ditch that bank.

  13. Buran says:

    @darkened: Much as it sucks we do need enforcement roles in society, as this story proves. Why do you hate cops?

  14. coan_net says:

    This is not meant to be a “shame on person” post since I think he did a great job in reporting it and getting the scum off the street.

    But anything over $200 myself (this was close to $2,000), I always make sure checks & money orders clear before sending an item. In the past, I always believed Money Orders were safe – and refused checks for a long time – but I know MO’s can be as fake as checks.

    This is a good post since I believe many people still think Money Orders are a safe form of payment… which is a little safe, but still – beware

  15. MikeB says:

    @COELACANTH: But, it would have still be screwed by his bank.

  16. Aladdyn says:

    I also would reccomend going ahead with a police reoprt even when you think it wont do any good. I had some items stolen from my van the One time I forgot to lock it. I called the police and gave them a list of items missing one of wich happened to be two-way radios. It just so happened that a police officer had stopped some guy walking around late the night before because he had a backpack on and the area was getting a lot of graffiti. The guy let the cop search him and the cop found a two way radio on him that matched mine. So that same day i filed the report the cops got a warrant and busted him. Never got any stuff back and my insurance compnay “reimbured” me for %50 of the value of the stuff that was stolen after the $500 deductible (great deal that was). But at least he was caught, and maybe hell even do some jail time.

  17. ThomFabian says:

    Part of the problem with the “money order scam” is that even if folks deposit it and it clears and the money appears in your account you aren’t really safe. Banks have come back weeks later and taken the money back saying the Money Order was a fraud.

  18. Skeptic says:

    Not that I would ever bank with Wells Fargo, but I wonder if there was any obvious reason why they immediately treated Chris like a criminal? Your bank is supposed to watch out for you. That’s why you let them hang onto your money.

    Hmm…it seems that all San Francisco banks treat their customer’s like criminals, based on the incident where BofA had a customer arrested for a similar situation.

  19. Skeptic says:

    Yes, you should have waited and/or only accepted USPS money orders (it becomes federal mail fraud if they’re fake or you don’t get everything you should) but honestly, I can’t blame you for assuming stuff was legit.

    Then the victim could be arrested for a federal felony, seeing as how the person depositing or cashing the money order is presumed to be the scammer.

    BTW, you don’t need the scammer to use a USPS money order, he just has to send the funds via USPS. Many scammers will only use other shippers for this reason.

  20. B says:

    What kind of dumb-ass thief uses his regular email address as part of a scam? Doesn’t he know yahoo or hotmail addresses are free?

  21. bohemian says:

    I experienced Wells Fargo and their version of customer service twice in the 90’s and never ever will again. Find a local bank or a credit union.

    We used to do ebay sales of some higher priced items. We never sent anything out until the money order or check cleared. We also discussed this with our bank and how many days they need before they consider an item to be completely clear and good. We would also confirm it any time we deposited a check or money order. If it was over $100 we required a cashiers check from a known bank. If it was over $500 it had to be done by wire transfer. This worked well but Paypal was the downfall, we wasted so much time trying to protect ourselves from scammers that would try to play the way Paypal works it just wasn’t worth it anymore. We would spend tons of time proving that a $4 item was delivered and didn’t get lost in the mail over and over again.

    I am still trying to fathom how Wells Fargo sees their customer as the bad guy in this.

  22. junkmail says:

    @Buran: Because it’s cool to hate cops, didn’t ya know?

    Anyway, great story. It’s good to see these thieving little bastards get nailed once in awhile.

  23. Murph1908 says:

    Nice. On parole for a sexual assault too. Looks like he’ll be heading back to federal pound-you-in-the-@ prison.

    It would almost be worth it to me to lose 212 games, knowing it put a guy like that back in stir.

    I agree with Buran. File a civil suit. Get what you can out of his ill-gotten booty. Or his ill-booten gotty.

  24. theWolf says:

    Good job by Wells Fargo to punish the victim. You’d think they’d be interested in catching and prosecuting criminals to deter future potential criminals, but they appear to consider the loss as a cost of doing business.

  25. typetive says:

    I used to bank with Wells until I made a deposit via the ATM machine. It was credited for the wrong amount ($70 instead of $400 or so just before Christmas). I went round and round with them about what the three checks actually were and asked for their documentation on what I actually deposited.

    I got a photocopy of THREE OTHER CHECKS that actually had full personal information including SS# for two people and absolutely no reference to my account numbers. It was also not in the same amount as what they’d mis-credited me. It’s like they’d just grabbed a random set of deposits and mailed them to me.

    Finally I just ditched the whole process of arguing with them and had the checks cancelled (one from my insurance company, one from my mom and one an expense check from work). Then I went over to Wells Fargo and closed out my account, in CASH. The manager made no attempt to even address any of my concerns, just argued with me over what sort of bills she could give me the balance in (she didn’t want to open another drawer to get more $100s, instead gave me lotsa 20s.)

    I also NEVER make deposits via an ATM any longer.

    I am not at all surprised that Wells Fargo is still completely clueless when it comes to managing their paper.

    I’m glad that someone astute cop is out there trying to stop this sort of fraud. It’s like most of it is happening in a no man’s land that no one wants to touch.

  26. smitty1123 says:

    @Buran: Judging from his post history, it’s either because he was busted for drug possession or he thinks they are tools of the evil phone companies…

  27. Starfury says:

    When I buy/sell from CL I will not ship anything. I did put up 2 old computers for $50 each a year back and within 60 seconds of posting I had e-mails wanting to know if I’d ship them to


    They offered to pay the shipping plus extra; they went to a local buyer instead.

  28. lawyergay says:

    Chris: Stay in touch with the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s office that is prosecuting this case. It’s more than likely that they will be able to at least ask for restitution for the money you lost. When you call up, tell them that you were the guy from California who filed the report and ask to speak to the Assistant D.A. in charge of this particular matter. Whether you’ll actually get anything is another matter. But I would at least try that route first before filing a civil suit. You may find that you can get some of your money back without the hassle and expense of bringing your own separate suit.

  29. FromThisSoil says:

    Finally, one of the good guys win.

    Moral of the story: Don’t mail anything out until payment has cleared.

  30. darkened says:

    @smitty1123: Actually they’re tools of the prison industrial complex. It’s abhorrent that we incarcerate more in American than i believe the rest of the world COMBINED.

    The majority of our “criminals” are non violent offenders in jail for current societies prohibition. The only reason prohibition exists is the amount of money it funds to the PIC to build more prisons and to fund more police departments.

    I hate the police because the majority of the time they are not investigating anything and spend their days catching criminals either by a.) breaking the law themselves legally (sting operations, it’s fine for us to do it but not you) or b.) giving out tickets and accidentally stopping some other crime.

    Couple that with the police’s brash use of tasers which should be classified 100% as lethal weapons. They might not kill the majority of the time but most people won’t die from being shot once by a gun either yet that is a “lethal weapon.” And police’s own total disregard for the rule of law and the constitution and their complete disdain in acting as a normal human being as they are literally above the law.

    Further more the police attempt to coerce even innocent parties into admitting guilt to a lesser crime regardless of whether they did it or not just to cop a plea instead of facing the entire book of charges cops will attempt to punish a person with for not playing ball. That personifies you are guilty there is no innocent until proven guilty, sign here or you will be guiltier. Even “Guilty until proven innocent” is barely held up anymore it’s just plain “You are guilty, you get to choose of what.”

    I could go on more, but do I need to?

  31. Erskine says:

    @darkened: “I could go on more, but do I need to?”

    Oh, hell no. Please stop.

  32. ARP says:

    SKEPTIC- You’re correct. Since he used the US mail, it’s considered mail fraud, a federal crime. For those non-lawyers out there, its how Tom Cruise won in “The Firm.”

    LawyerGay- I agree, you may even be able to be a witness for the prosecution and help put this guy away. It’s unlikely that they’ll need you in person with all the paperwork you have, but they may ask you to authenticate it.

  33. Landru says:


    So, about internet fraud…?

  34. PlanetExpressdelivery says:


    Apparently, this guy’s got a myspace under his name as well. He also hate’s paypal, so he’s got a lil’ consumerist in him. Unfortunately, that’s not an excuse to go sending out bad money orders.

  35. Murph1908 says:

    Odd. I have never done anything to even warrant being questioned.

    I have never had a taser aimed at me.

    Seems if you just keep your nose clean, you need not worry about anything you describe.

    I guess if people would stop blaming the police for doing their jobs, and instead not do stuff that ends up in a confrontation with them, we wouldn’t have to incarcerate so many people.

    Keep your eye on the sparrow.

  36. jimconsumer says:

    Calling the police works very well. I once bought an item from a guy on eBay and he refused to deliver after I paid. I began systematically contacting all of his recent buyers and put together a group of about a dozen people whom he had also scammed within the same week. I then called his local police department.

    This idiot was in a small town and had use his real address. The small town cops were real nice on the phone. After I explained the situation, one of them paid him a little visit. Knocked on his door, had a little chat with him and everything. She called me back and he had given her some BS story, but she had advised him to either refund the money or send the goods immediately.

    He sent the goods. Unfortunately they were significantly not as described – completely trashed would be more appropriate. He blamed UPS and tried to refuse to give me a refund. I simply had to remind him that I could make another phone call to the police and have him arrested if he wanted to play with me. He decided he didn’t, and refunded my money as well as the money of several of the others I had contacted.

    Police are getting more and more used to dealing with this type of crime and are taking it seriously. So, call ’em. It got my $150 back.

  37. all my craigslist sales explicitly state “CASH ONLY” for this and a number of other reasons and I won’t deal with anyone from outside my metro area unless they wanna drive here.

  38. Doctor Cathattan says:

    Another alternative is to use escrow services like Buyer sends $$$ to neutral 3rd party. Seller sends goods to neutral 3rd party. When neutral 3rd party gets $$$ they send the goods off to the buyer. No fuss. No muss.

  39. Skeptic says:


    Moral of the story: Don’t mail anything out until payment has cleared.

    Got to be real careful with that one. Even when the bank says it cleared it may not be cleared. Your bank will not give you any absolute assurance that a check has “cleared” and that the money is guaranteed to be “yours,” not even after more than 10 days.

  40. j-damn says:

    @darkened: @darkened:

    Prison industrial complex? Please.
    The US does not incarcerate more than the rest of the world *combined*, either. More per 100,000 than every “Western” nation, yes. Many states do not report totals, others routinely execute prisoners without regards for their “Human rights”, either.

    As for imprisoning “non-violent” offenders–I assume you’re talking about drugs. They are not in jail because of society’s “prohibition”–they are most likely in jail for theft, driving drunk, wandering around stoned and/or otherwise being stupid enough to get caught while high.

    You’ll argue that drug users hurt “no one but themselves”, which is true if they’re rich enough to afford their habit without breaking into your parked car/garage/house/wallet to fund their habit. Then they’re hurting someone, aren’t they? Why should someone shoot up/smoke up based on all your hard work as a law-abiding citizen?

    You hate the cops for “accidentally stopping other crime” while “giving out tickets” [let me guess, going 80 in a school zone is a societal prohibition, too] yet you obviously don’t want them busting down doors and violating your 4th A. rights instead. Your cognitive dissonance is stunning.

    And a taser has a chance of killing you, yes, but that chance is absolutely minute when compared to what might happen if the police shot you with some other kind of projectile.

  41. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @darkened: RON PAUL ’08

  42. trujunglist says:

    I agree. Everytime I’ve actually needed the police, they ended up telling me to fuck off, and that my concerns were not important to them.
    When I didn’t need them, they ended up harassing me for no other reason than because MOST (not all) cops are complete dicks.
    Like one time, I needed the cops to come over because my car was broken into and badly badly damaged. Called them up and when they got there they started harassing ME, the victim, for no real reason that I could deduce other than that they were assholes. Not to mention the fact that it was about 30 degrees out and it took them 2 hours to arrive. Another time I called them because a random car parked in my driveway. I had first called a towing company and they said they wouldn’t do it without a cop, so I called the cops, they said to call the tow company, and to literally “fuck off, your call is not important, do not call again.” Called the tow company back and they said I was SOL. Protect and to serve what again? Oh yeah, their own best interests.
    Another time, I was at a party and the cops came by. They started harassing everyone there and making them do the drunk tests because most people there were underage. It just so happens that no one had been drinking and they had no proof of it, but that’s beside the point. Somehow, the same cop had met up with my sister at another party at the same apt complex and had gotten into some sort of argument with her and she was almost arrested, but of course, I didn’t know that, and of course, he started harassing the shit out of me for being related and taunting me about what he knew and what I didn’t know. I asked him politely to please tell me what had happened, and he simply continued to cuss and taunt me.
    ANOTHER time I was in Chicago, at a rave. The rave was badly organized, and there were some people who had been waiting in line for up to 3 hours and had already paid for their tickets, although there was no real reason why they were still outside other than that it was terrible organized. Eventually, people in the back started pushing and there was a stampede (very frightening, I can’t recommend it). Everyone wound up in a large tent which was the security/ticket taking area. First, security stormed in and started beating anyone within reach. Then, the cops came, and you know how friendly Chicago cops were back in the 60s? Now they’re even friendlier and armed with deadlier weapons, hooray! Needless to say, a lot of innocent people were hurt unnecessarily because the cops didn’t know what they were doing, including a friend of mine who “talked back” to a cop by asking him when he’d be able to get into the show with his prepaid $30 ticket.
    I’m in a situation now where I’m being harassed by an ex, and everyone I know says to call the cops. However, I know my ex won’t kill me, but there’s a good possibility that the cops, being the dicks that they’ve been in the past when I needed help, WILL kill me via taser, suffocation from a knee on my throat, gun, or a good old fashioned beatdown. There’s no telling what will set them off and what won’t, so it’s best just to steer clear of the entire operation.
    Sorry for the rant, but people who think that cops are around to actually help are smoking something and should be arrested.

  43. JustAGuy2 says:


    Well, one of two things is possible:

    1. You keep on attracting bad apple cops.

    2. The issue is with you.

    Personally, I’m betting on #2. Occam’s Razor and all that.

  44. Alexander says:

    @darkened: Wow, I could make fortune selling tin foil hats to people like you. That or illegal weapons…

  45. Alexander says:

    @trujunglist: “Sorry for the rant, but people who think that cops are around to actually help are smoking something and should be arrested.” Hmm…arrested by the cops? By the way, I’m selling tin foil hats…j/k.

  46. Snakeophelia says:

    @lawyergay: I agree that Chris should stay in touch with the DA and ask about victim compensation. Heck, the only crime I’ve been a victim of in Philly was an attempted car theft – there was an undercover operation on site that caught the theives before they made off with my car – and THEY called ME after the fact to try to give me money. I had to convince them that, in fact, I lost nothing due to this attempted crime and I didn’t think PA owed me any cash for it. I’m surprised Chris has not heard from anyone, assuming he does have a police report in the works.

  47. joellevand says:

    Stop blaming the cops for policies they do not create and start voting out the a$$-hat politicians who create the policies the police have to enforce to keep their jobs!

    And I second the Ron Paul ’08 comment!

  48. miran says:

    Call the bank where the check was written (verify the phone number online first) and ask about the a account. If you have a check, you have enough information to verify the check is valid prior to deposit. Do this for any bank check from a unknown source. I had two checks sent to me that were bogus. Shredded. The banks were already on to them.

  49. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @joellevand: I was joking, you utter n00b. GO BACK TO REDSTATE.

  50. BOSMike says:

    A quick Google search of this scammer shows he admitted online he was a felon and HATED the Butler County cops.


  51. PVogel says:

    Another resource to remember is the Postal Inspection Service. If the mail is involved, you can submit a complaint online at [] The more prolific the thief is, the larger the chance of a federal investigation.

    You won’t see them mentioned much, since they actually do work instead of holding press conferences.

  52. pigeonpenelope says:

    i feel really bad for this guy’s situation with the scammer and worse for his situation with his bank. what an jerk of a bank.

  53. Buran says:

    @Skeptic: Erm, being a victim doesnt make it your fault. I fail to see the logic in this statement.

  54. Bay State Darren says:

    I agree with Darkened, TRUJUNGLIST, etc. Get rid of all the cops! That’ll make the world much better. They never do anything good and only cause harm!

    Seriously, I wish there was a place in this country where no local or state law enforcement agencies had any jurisdiction. That way all these cop-bashers would have a utopia for themselves, free of the police who menace them so. I’m sure it would prove to be a real paradise. More importantly, it’d shut these idiots up.

  55. Buran says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: Wow.

  56. Buran says:

    @trujunglist: Not going to go into the rest of this, but the car in your driveway … I would have pushed it out into the street. Not my problem then, is it? It’ll get hauled off right quick when it’s on public property blocking the right of way.

  57. spryte says:

    @trujunglist: LOLZ at the thought that you actually think people would read that whole thing. I stopped at “Another time…” because I realized I didn’t give a crap.

    I think this guy and Darkened watched Training Day too many times. Yes, some cops are dirty, but that’s a small percentage compared to the total number of police in this country. Most cops do their jobs decently and well, and considering the things they deal with on a regular basis, I admire that. Sure, a lot of them have attitudes and act like jerk-offs, but wouldn’t you if your days and/or nights were spent dealing with junkies, rapists, thieves, drunks, murderers, etc?

  58. twoply says:

    “@public enemy #1:
    “I think you need to change the title of the post. It makes it sound like the guy who filed the police report got arrested.”
    Agreed. The title would make more sense if it was something like, “Reader Files A Police Report On Craigslist Scammer Leading To Scammer’s Arrest”

    Much props to Chris for getting the scammer arrested.

  59. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @Buran: Woopsy, forgot this wasn’t Wonkette. Though, apparently, I’m not the only one who mistook this for a shouty political blog.

  60. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @Bay State Darren: Many internet-style libertarians — not all, but a lot — are convinced that the real obstacle to their success in life is those damn nannies in Washington.

    I, too, would love to give them the chance to prove it.

  61. gingerCE says:

    A good uplifting story. I am always happy to hear when scammers and thieves get caught and put behind bars. The best part of this story would be if the person who reported this crime finally gets paid.

  62. Bay State Darren says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: Thanks. And thanks to all other people defending the police in this thread. [I’ve been on my own for previous “discussions” of law enforcement on this site. It feels nice to not be the lone voice of sanity.] Although I must retract my previous statement that my proposal would shut such idiots up, no amount of reality ever will.

  63. alhypo says:

    I like how the article says “let the online buyer beware.”

    Sound advice, for sure, but in this particular case, the buyer was the con-artist. Are they suggesting he should have been more careful so as to avoid getting caught?

  64. Mrs. Stephen Fry says:

    I love that a poster was all, “Yeah, Ron Paul all the way!” Um, no.

    People like darkened and trujunglist care me.

  65. Jesse in Japan says:

    If you are stupid enough to accept a money order sent to you through somebody on the internet, you deserve what you get.

  66. starbreiz says:

    I prefer Paypal over money orders, but it’s still awesome that the police report led to his arrest. Plus, that newspaper is from my hometown, though I’m now in California :)

  67. ph15h says:

    Snitching… Lucky it was San Francisco and Pennsylvania instead of Los Angeles and New York…

    Oh well. You live, your learn. Take Paypal or Cash…

    Wells Fargo should be nicer…

  68. Major-General says:

    @discounteggroll: Yeah, but would turn down the buyer just because they weren’t in San Jose?

    @Buran: Most have a Napoleon Complex.

    @Skeptic: Wasn’t the electronics banking bit from ’06 supposed to fix this? Of course, I just got a notice from one bank that ACH transfer will now on only be reported on the monthly statements.

    @miran: Hmm, do you bank with Chase, the bank that won’t process a check because they haven’t heard of the bank it was written on?

  69. crankymediaguy says:

    “Odd. I have never done anything to even warrant being questioned.

    I have never had a taser aimed at me.

    Seems if you just keep your nose clean, you need not worry about anything you describe.”

    And your point is what now?

    Yes, most people will never deal with the police for anything more than a traffic violation. That, however, does NOT mean that some people aren’t jerked around.

    A local guy was arrested recently for allegedly robbing several banks. While he did slightly resemble the guy on the video taken in the banks, he was completely innocent. It cost him $20,000 in lawyers’ fees to straighten things out. The FBI didn’t even apologize to him.

    The fact that shit hasn’t happened to YOU is not proof that it doesn’t happen.

  70. MikeWright says:

    Chris, It is not hard to contact the court or the probation department and have, as a condition of his probation, reimbursement to you.

  71. morganlh85 says:

    I have little sympathy for people who are dumb enough to take money orders for Craigslist transactions and ship items to buyers; they only have about 20 warnings all over the website to NOT do exactly that.

  72. danger says:

    About waiting for checks or money orders to clear: wait until they REALLY clear, not until your bank frees the money.

    Actual clearing time is 7 to 10 days (think about how long it takes to process the check at the receiver’s bank, ship it physically to the writer’s bank, and then process it)… not the 2-3 days that most banks claims is the “clearing” time. You’re actually on the hook for a bounced check if it ends up being bogus, even if you waited until your bank gave the initial OK.

  73. danger says:

    Another common scam is someone writes you a money order or check for more htan the amount of the item. Then they politely ask you to return the difference, letting you keep a little for yourself. Same scam, basically — but in that case, the goods are never actually exchanged.

  74. chrisbacke says:

    Craigslist rocks… but people, deal with someone you can meet face-to-face. eBay works because of the supervision and feedback they provide. I’m sure there are more than enough horror stories about both services, but those are usually because people forgot to turn their brains on and use common sense.

    Don’t accept money orders, personal checks, Western Union, wire transfers, etc. on craigslist. Deal face-to-face with someone and in cold, hard cash. It’s easier, and a whole lot safer.

    BTW, I’ve had over a dozen transactions on craigslist without a hitch (and a few more up there right now).

  75. banmojo says:

    @junkmail: His presumed hatred of all cops may be due to a personal incidence, which doesn’t excuse it but makes it more understandable. Unfortunately, many cops out there are people who didn’t go to college, have a gun and a nearly free licence to use it (there have been many well described cases where cops fired first when they should have asked questions instead), and finally we have many evidences that there is a good deal of corruption amongst police and their depts. Sooooooo, perhaps we shouldn’t hate the symptoms of the disease, but hate the disease itself and do our best to treat it effectively. We have the ability to place systems of checks and balances into any existing systems/systems, then step back and see if that makes it better or worse. It’s systems theory 101. Our government needs to take that class. Our police depts need to take that class. EVERYONE needs to take that class, and start taking personal responsibility for themselves and for their country.


  76. AmericaTheBrave says:

    People, if you have to accept a money order, make sure you ONLY accept USPS postal money orders. They can only be purchased at a post office, and you can cash them on the spot at the post office right before you ship the item. If it’s a fake money order it will be caught then, you won’t ship the items, and you won’t have fees and issues with your bank.

    Occasionally I have to take money orders when I sell on eBay, and I tell the customer I will return any money order that isn’t a USPS money order. Honest customers have no problem with that and send the correct money order, but the scammers never contact you again.

  77. rg says:

    So, poor “Chris” didn’t have time to deal with Ebay, but now it’s costing him much more time to deal with his bank etc. Moral or this story, stay with Ebay for something like this, you’re protected that way. And remember, cashiers checks can be easily faked too. PayPal my friend!

  78. D-Bo says:

    @rg: Paypal and Ebay are in no way guarantees of a successful (read:non-scammer) transactions.

    Kudos, Chris wat to fight the good fight and stick with it!

  79. KJones says:


    Why do people dislike cops? You mean, aside from their power tripping and the number of instances of brutality, corruption and laziness? It may only be a small number of police (about….oh, 30%, I’d guess) who are unethical and corrupt, but one thing all police are is arrogant.

    Never forget: that police are NOT the law, they do NOT decide the law, and most imporantly, they are NOT *above* the law, those most police think they are all three. The police are only there to enforce the law, that’s it. Those who criticize the critics of police seem to have forgotten that.

  80. KJones says:

    That should have read, “though most police think…”, not “those”. I missed the word on a re-edit.

  81. KJones says:

    As for the article, kudos to Chris. It’s another example of the golden rule: keep receipts and document everything. (The golden rule being, “Protect your gold, because no one else will”.)

    I also try to keep the original packaging: store the boxes flat (to save space) and the foam packing in a bag or box (use a marker to write the product’s name on the foam) if you think you might need it again.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the scum – er, scammer – bought the games because he was branching out into molesting children because women were too strong.

  82. ChrisInSF says:

    Hi everyone, it’s Chris, the guy who wrote this tip in to Consumerist. Just wanted to update everyone that on Friday, I received a letter in the mail from the scammer, sent from the Butler County Jail. As I expected it would, it was an attempt to try to butter me up, humanize his situation, and get me to drop the charges against him.

    Just a few summaries of the sprawling, hand-written letter:

    1. Justin claims he was also ripped off in that he had a “dropshipper” of his rip me off, and then sell him the stolen games.
    2. Justin has a child on the way and is the sole bread winner of his family.
    3. He’s tried hard to make something of himself since he got out of prison.
    4. He’s willing to settle out of court.

    I guess he didn’t think I’d ever look this story up on the Internet and realize that his dropshipper story was BS. Sorry, but it’s going to be hard to convince me that one of your buddies set you up, when the cops seize 12 fake money orders at your apartment. Sigh. Thanks for the kind comments and I’ll keep updating as soon as I have more details on what’s going on!


  83. inkhead says:

    Actually drop shippers happen all the time. I’m surprised he even knew the term. I don’t want to be the one sappy person here, but I’ve dealt with a lot of scammers and most of them usually are a pretty sad case. They are smart enough to think of something other than physical crimes (robbing a store) to feed their families but have trouble keeping jobs.

    Do you think the guy is really going to do this again after actually going to jail? No. Probably not, my guess is this a a semi-computer person who did it to get some money in a hurry one time, and it just kept getting out of hand…

    I don’t know what to say..

  84. mariospants says:

    You know, it’s possible that the FBI and other police agencies actually haven’t acted on this and that the officer who contacted the OP was actually the scammer and a friend. Adding an article of this nature with assumed names to a web-based local newspaper was probably icing on the cake. OP goes away happy, criminal continues conducting business.

    It’s a possibility, anyway.

  85. consumerd says:


    LOL, banks look after themselves, silly human!

  86. consumerd says:


    All he would have to do is get a copy of the police report. Technically he could also report the guy for mail fraud as well.

  87. Clumber says:

    no, no, no…

    It’s RuPaul in 08!
    She’ll work it, work it to the left, work it, work it to the right! Sashay, sashay, Chante’! See? Bi-partisan!

  88. DorothyEosphorus says:
  89. Anonymous says:

    The most frustrating part of this whole story was the way you were treated by your bank! There should be some recourse for the little person to force banks to treat them reasonably. Also, I can’t believe even the police couldn’t get results from the bank.

    There is a website that allows you to post the email address and a description of a scam if you are approached by a scammer on Craigslist. It is called craigslistofscammers – just Google it.