MORISVILLE, NC An online encounter Wednesday morning in the Kitts Creek neighborhood led to a 16-year-old boy being robbed at gunpoint, according to police.
Investigators said the boy tried to sell an iPhone to three men he met on Facebook Marketplace.
Police arrested Michael Purcell, 18; Jaylin Beal, 21; and Emannuel Purcell, 26. Authorities are holding them in the Wake County Detention Center. The three men are charged with armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, possession of a stolen firearm, assault by pointing a gun, possession of a counterfeit instrument, obtaining property under false pretenses, possession of a firearm by criminal and possession of marijuana.
The teen tried to sell an iPhone to the three men through the Facebook Marketplace feature.
“[It’s] just a really scary situation for anyone, let alone a teenager,” said Morrisville Police Chief Pete Acosta.
Acosta said the three men tried to buy the iPhone with counterfeit money.
“When confronted with that, they pulled out weapons and we ended up robbing the victim [using] violence,” Acosta said.
Police say they have arrested three men through an undercover investigation. They were caught trying to sell the iPhone online. Police also seized another stolen cell phone, a MacBook computer and two weapons from the same suspects.
Acosta said interactions with strangers should never take place in a private location. Acosta suggested using a marked camera-monitored place where transactions can be made safely.
There are several options for online users and shoppers to discover, buy and sell products: it includes Facebook Marketplace, Craiglist and Offerup, among others.
The parent of a 13-year-old and 18-year-old, Morrisville resident Clayton Sinegal said he was alarmed to learn what happened earlier this week.
“If a kid wants to sell an iPhone or something minor, you should have had your parents or an older adult, sibling, so nothing like that will happen,” Sinegal said.
Acosta echoed Sinegal’s feelings.
“Don’t do these kinds of transactions alone,” Acosta said. “Always have someone accompany you.”
Sinegal said he has used online sites to make purchases.
“Sometimes when you look at it, you find interesting things,” Clayton Sinegal said.
From TVs to tapes, Sinegal said he’d been lucky enough to get some great deals online and met the seller in person.
“I asked [a] police officer who was there, ‘could he watch from a distance while I bought some tires?’” Sinegal said.
Sinegal met in public rather than at his Morrisville home.
“It’s just not that convenient to use your house as a meeting place,” Acosta said.
Acosta not only met in a public place but also gave the various tips to avoid being scammed or robbed. He said the police are offering places designed for secure exchanges.