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Teens charged in Craigslist robbery ring

The gang placed fake ads on the site offering cheap Porsches to lure cash-carrying victims, New York police say.

January 11, 2008|From Newsday

NEW YORK — A group of teenagers, led by a 17-year-old Queens girl, has been arrested on charges stemming from posting online ads for cheap Porsches in order to rob cash-carrying buyers, Long Island police said this week.

The group's ringleader was high schooler Agniesika Banach, who placed at least three fake ads on Craigslist selling late-model Porsches, said Det. Lt. Karl Schoepp.

One of the fake ads promised a 2002 Porsche 911 Turbo for a negotiable $50,000. Another ad for a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT claimed the owner was selling the car because she was "getting too old" for it.

Some of the ads were posted in the website's Long Island section because the teens wanted to target the area's affluent car lovers, Schoepp said. The ads have since been taken down.

Banach recruited six male friends to rob the buyers who responded to the ads, Schoepp said.

On Nov. 26, a couple from Pennsylvania drove to Freeport for a 2006 Porsche they saw in Banach's ad, Nassau County police said. They were attacked by four young men who stole the $4,000 the couple had brought for the car's down payment, according to police.

In the second robbery, two Long Island men agreed to buy a 2002 Porsche from Banach and on Dec. 6 drove to Baldwin, where several young men assaulted them, though the victims gave up only $50 of their $22,000 down payment before escaping, police said.

Investigators, who used information from Craigslist and the digital trail left by Banach to trace the ad postings, said the scam was not "sophisticated" and on par with using websites such as MySpace or Facebook.

Banach, a senior at the High School for Environmental Studies in midtown Manhattan, has pleaded not guilty to robbery charges.

She posted bail of $85,000 bond or $30,000 cash at her Dec. 18 arraignment in First District Court in Hempstead. Her next court date is Jan. 16, records show. "She played on the greed factor of people looking to get a bargain," Schoepp said.

Involved in the Freeport robbery, police said, were Bronx residents Christopher Blanco and Wally Arias, and Brooklyn resident Ronique Simpson, each 18. The men involved in the Baldwin robbery were George Obanyoun, 19, and Chad Greaves, 17, of Brooklyn, police said.

Khaliek Owens, 16, of Brooklyn, also faces robbery charges in both incidents. He pleaded not guilty.

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