LEHIGH ACRES, Fla.- Lee County Sheriff's deputies arrested three people for allegedly robbing victims who thought they were meeting up to purchase a used iPhone.
On Wednesday, February 5, just before 6:00 p.m., the Lee County Sheriff's Office received a call about an armed robbery. The incident occurred at 1519 Michael Avenue. Deputies responded to the scene and met with two male victims who advised they had gone to the location to buy a used phone.
"They were very lucky. The attackers were armed, don't know how that could have turned on them," said Stacey Payne of LCSO.
The men used a Facebook community page in search of the used iPhones to buy. Arrangements with a seller were made and the buyers agreed to meet at a home in Lehigh Acres. After arriving at the predetermined location, they soon realized the residence was vacant and they were set up.
That's when 18-year-old Melina Maldonado reportedly met the victims in the driveway and initiated the bogus transaction while a masked man, later identified as 19-year-old Gustavo Fernandes Souza, approached from the opposite side of the vehicle, brandishing an AR-15 rifle. The victims were forced at gunpoint out of the car and led to the garage, where they were searched and robbed of their belongings by another masked man, identified as 19-year-old Xavier Rodriguez.
"When you are going to be something, the buyer knows, you've got cash. The criminal knows you have cash on you because you are planning to make a purchase so they are going to make something off that robbery," said Payne.
The victims said they were left in the garage and had an opportunity to escape. They ran to a nearby residence to get help.
Detectives learned that the robbers were using fake names with Maldonado using the first name Finesser, which refers to "someone who robs or steals." On Tuesday, Maldonado and Rodriguez were located and taken into custody. Souza was arrested on Wednesday. All three of them were charged for robbery with a firearm and booked into the Lee County Jail.
LCSO warns residents that if you intend to purchase an item online and agree to meet the person, complete the transaction in a public place or even at one of the Sheriff's District Offices. Be aware that these people may not use their real names or addresses, but they will attempt to retrieve yours. Stay alert, and if something sounds or looks suspicious, please contact the Sheriff's Office or local law enforcement.