A Northeast D.C. man has been arrested for robbing multiple victims he met through Facebook Marketplace.
D.C. police Fifth District Commander Sylvan Altieri says police arrested 19-year-old Elijah Porter without incident after he robbed four separate victims who fell for digital selling scams.
“Sometimes he posed as a seller, sometimes he posed as a buyer,” Altieri explained. “If he was a seller, he’d rob victims of their money. If he was a buyer, he’d rob them of their items.”
Altieri said the first robbery occurred in Northeast D.C. back in early November. Then, another happened close by, just a week later.
“Once we got two — once it was in the same block, and it was Facebook Marketplace both times — we realized it was probably going to be a pattern,” Altieri told WTOP.
Two more robberies and a partial photo snapped by a victim led police to execute a search warrant and take Porter in.
“We were able to uncover evidence from the last robbery,” Altieri said. “We were also able to recover an altered shotgun, a BB gun that looked like a firearm, and some ammunition.”
Altieri said this case reflects a reality we need to be aware of in today’s climate and at this time of year in particular: getting gifts for loved ones via an unregulated social media platform poses risks.
“When you’re dealing with something like this, you’re never really going to know until the last possible step whether it’s going to be a scam,” he reflected.
That’s why meeting in a safe place is most important, Altieri said.
Where to meet for in-person purchases
The District has had a program for years called “Safe Exchange,” where anyone can meet up at any of their 10 stations throughout the seven police districts of D.C. to finalize an unregulated transaction.
Simply show up, tell police you’re there for an exchange and you’re free to conduct your business.
“If you and I agree to meet up, and you say ‘Let’s meet at the police station.’ And someone says, ‘Oh, I’m not meeting at the police station,’ that should raise a red flag,” Altieri said. “Years ago, people would say, ‘Oh, meet in a public place.’ But even then, you might not be completely protected.”
Altieri said the department’s stations are open 24 hours and can serve as safe places for risky, unregulated transactions.
“We also understand some people might be more uncomfortable around law enforcement and might not want to come into the station, and that’s fine,” he added. “In that case, try to arrange the meeting to be outside the station, where you still might be safer than you’d be somewhere else.”