Police say Facebook buy, sell, trade groups becoming popular with criminals

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HAZELWOOD, MO (KTVI) – Buy/sell/trade Facebook groups have exploded in popularity in communities across St. Louis.  Hazelwood police say criminals are now turning to these pages to sell stolen goods, and they caught one recent seller red-handed.

With a photo, brief description and asking price, it’s that easy to post an item for sale on the Florissant-Hazelwood Buy/Sell/Trade Facebook page.

With more than 11,000 members and roughly 200 posts per day, group administrator Rory Schwartz says it’s tough to keep track of who posts what. But they try.  The group has rules, and banned items, even banned users.

“We’ve learned as we’ve gone; it was an open group and we’ve closed it, so that we had to approve people, and now we have to approve everybody’s posts,” Schwartz explains.

Police say 19-year-old Kylie Howard posted a Kindle for sale, for $60. It was recently stolen from a home on Ville Rosa Lane, along with a class ring and a watch.  Group admins approved the post; with no idea the Kindle was stolen.  Luckily, Hazelwood detectives found out about it.

Hazelwood Police Captain Jim Hudanick explains, “On a random search, [we] hit on something that was stolen that Miss Howard had listed.”

Police made contact with Howard on Facebook, posing as an interested buyer. They arranged to meet her outside a Hazelwood Quiznos to buy the Kindle.  When Howard arrived at the Quiznos, police quickly arrested her. She’s now charged with receiving stolen property.

Investigators say Howard possessed other stolen items connected to at least 6 home burglaries.  According to the group admin, Howard posted dozens of items on the Facebook page, ranging from women’s clothes to brand new Nikes and golf clubs.  Schwartz says, “I looked at some of her posts, and she claimed that some of the things were her boyfriend’s collectibles. I mean, how to do you tell whether it’s that?”

Schwartz says several police officers are members of this buy/sell/trade group.  They scan the posts every day, because a photo of a stolen item, posted by a traceable individual, can be pretty powerful evidence.  “I tell you, if it’s not posted, the police wouldn’t have caught it. So in essence, I’m glad that we approved that post,” he adds.​

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