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I Was a Craigslist Bandit

YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia , Commentary, Byron James Posted: Jul 16, 2009

Editors Note While the infamous Craigslist Murderer made news again this week, throughout the country cases of robberies and other crimes utilizing the Web site have become commonplace. YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia contributor Byron James, 18, was a "Craigslist bandit" and says he regrets the life of crime that led him to use technology to terrorize his neighbors. The writer asked that his real name not be used.

OAKLAND, Calif. -- I almost spent years in jail behind my Craigslist robbing spree. But really it was just another money hustle for me in a long line of hustles.

It was wrong for me to use the Web site to do dirt. Its meant for a whole other purpose and I took advantage of it. I abused the Internet and I terrorized people in my community, which was not cool at all. If you are looking at Craigslist as a way to commit crimes, youll be arrested. Believe me, I know.

My introduction to a life of crime started when I met Dirty. He controlled the illegal business in my neighborhood, so I was inspired by him and I felt he was a real man. Dirty made a lot of money so he was considered a hood star.

I started hanging around him when I was 10-years-old -- thats when he started fronting me cocaine to sell. Dirty was a smooth talker and could motivate people easily.

Later on, as I got older, I started selling crack for Dirty. He had me stand on the corner and pull the dope out of a mailbox to serve the knock (dope fiend), and then bring him the money when I finished a sale. From this, I would make around $200 a week. I would sell his drugs all day so Dirty was clearly ripping me. Crack dealing lasted me for a while, but I wanted more money.

Then an idea popped in my head: Craigslist.

I found out about Craigslist from a teacher of mine who sold a lot of books online. He explained to me how it worked. I looked at it as a cash cow that I just had to milk. I was 17 when I started doing the Craigslist jobs. I started responding to ads and then robbing unsuspecting civilians.

I had a strategy. I looked for car ads and other high-priced items like rims. I used a laptop that belonged to my uncle, before he went to jail, to do research.

I would call from a pre-paid cell phone or a pay phone so that the calls couldn't be tied to me in any way. Next, I would have a female call the civilian peddler so that they would think a female was coming to deal with them and not potential robbers. The female would listen to the voice of the civilian and determine their age, sex and ethnicity. This info was crucial because I refused to rob seniors and women.

Anyway, I followed through with six robberies, but the last one almost put me in jail for a long time.

My final Craigslist caper went down like this: I woke up, put my gun in the car and smoked two blunts (marijuana-filled cigars) with my accomplices before we showed up at San Antonio Park in East Oakland.

It was the usual set up. I had a female call and make the arrangements. She hadnt said there was anything out of the ordinary. We saw the man in a truck and signaled him to come over to our vehicle. When he did, my homie, my cousin and I hopped out of our car with our guns drawn. I stood in shock for about 30 seconds after I realized the man was a senior citizen. He looked like he was almost 70. At that moment, I knew I was just going to let him go, but then I heard an officer yelling: Put your hands up and get on the ground!

We had been caught.

The man I tried to rob turned out to be a 60-year-old with a serious heart condition and I was facing attempted murder charges, even though he wasn't harmed in anyway. Because of his age he was considered vulnerable. I could have scared him to death.

My mom was devastated and couldnt believe that her son had become a serious criminal. She visited me every Sunday after church and she would pray with me. She encouraged me to trust in God and believe that he wouldnt allow me to go to the pen.

Luckily, the senior decided not to press the most serious charges. I spent nine months in juvenile hall. God stood by his word and I thanked him for blessing me and giving me another chance to live my life right.

More from YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia:

The World Says Goodbye to Mike

The College Dream Deferred

Young People React to Chris Brown's Domestic Violence Sentence

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