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$45,000 in his trunk? Victim says two women stole big bucks in online deal for a watch gone bad

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 11/1/18

If you are going to meet people who you met online to buy something from them, do it in a well-lit public place and don’t do it alone.

Or you could end up like a New Cumberland man who on …

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$45,000 in his trunk? Victim says two women stole big bucks in online deal for a watch gone bad

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If you are going to meet people who you met online to buy something from them, do it in a well-lit public place and don’t do it alone.

Or you could end up like a New Cumberland man who on Oct. 23 was beaten by two women and robbed of $45,000 in cash, after he arranged to meet them at an abandoned farmhouse in Lower Swatara Township to buy a $50 watch, police say.

The $45,000 was in the trunk of the man’s car, police said. The women also stole a $40 carton of cigarettes that the man had in his car, according to police.

The 44-year-old man met the women through OfferUp, a smart phone application that connects buyers and sellers, police say.

The victim had twice met the women at a gas station to buy items from them such as watches and cellphones — once on Oct. 21 and then on Oct. 22, township Police Detective Robert Appleby told the Press & Journal.

By then, the women had noticed the man getting cash out of his trunk to buy the items.

After the second transaction Oct. 22, the women contacted the man to meet again — but this time in a much less public place, near an abandoned farmhouse in the 400 block of Stoner Road at night.

The man agreed to meet them, but shortly after 8:30 p.m. as he was getting $50 out of his trunk to buy a watch, the victim told police he was struck from behind by a hard object that hit him on the inside of his knee.

The man told police he was struck multiple times more, before he was hit on the head and lost consciousness. He did not seek medical treatment but reported the robbery to police the next day, Appleby said.

Appleby said police do not know why the man had $45,000 in the trunk of his car. However, police believe the man was not planning on buying $45,000 worth of items from the women that night.

There were no surveillance cameras in the area and police  do not know of any witnesses.

However, police have identified two women as suspects, through the victim’s description and through evidence obtained from how the victim and the suspects communicated with each other electronically.

One suspect has a Lower Swatara Township address and would have been familiar with the Stoner Road area. The other woman is believed to be from Columbia.

An initial police report referred to three suspects as white women ages 21, 31, and 23. But the focus is now on the two women.

The case is an active investigation; Appleby could not say how soon charges will be filed. If anyone saw the incident or has information, they should contact police, Appleby said.

Even though the victim had met the women twice before to buy and sell items, the women wanting to meet the man at a different — and much less public — place should have been a red flag, Appleby said.

“This is a perfect example of how when it comes to meeting people (to buy items) it can be a very dangerous situation if you are not careful,” Appleby said.

Swatara Township and Hummelstown are among area municipalities where police have set up a designated area for people who connect online to meet to buy and sell items. Swatara police suggest people also use the area for child custody exchanges.

Known as the Swatara Township Safe Exchange Zone, the area is in the front parking lot of the Swatara Township Police Department at 599 Eisenhower Blvd.

The lot is identified by a large green painted location and is within view of multiple high definition cameras with 24/7 video surveillance.

Township police regularly check on the zone. The township strongly encourages residents use the zone, especially outside of normal business hours.

Appleby said if such a zone is not available, people should arrange to meet in a well-lit public place, during daylight hours if possible, and at a location covered by surveillance cameras. Do not go into such a situation alone, he said.

A similar setup has been in place in Hummelstown for several months. Two parking spaces at the new borough building at the northwest corner of the municipal parking lot, closest to the Quarry Road and Lower Dauphin Middle School entrance, are a Safe Exchange Zone.

A light pole provides lighting for anyone planning on purchasing or selling items to another person, whom they are likely meeting for the first time, according to the borough.

An exterior video security camera records the zone.