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Craigslist Prankster Could Get Jail Time

When you want to buy a used car, get rid of an old couch, or even search for a roommate, one of the places you might turn to is Craigslist. But some are using the site to commit crimes, including a Houston woman arrested just last week. Bill Stamps has more on the case and a new law written just for internet crime.



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In Portland, police busted a theft ring two years ago when someone saw their own laptop for sale on Craigslist. There’s also the case of the so called “Craigslist killer” — the guy who allegedly used craigslist to find prostitutes. The Houston case isn’t as serious but its being prosecuted under a new law.

Friendswood police say 33 year old Amanda Anderson made up a fake job wanted ad because she was mad at her old boss. The insurance business didn’t think it was funny when it reportedly received more calls than it could handle.

This is Galveston County district attorney Donna Goode talking about the new law that makes the case a felony.

“Went into effect September 2009 and it talks about a person committing offense if they use the name or persona of another person. In this case, post one or more messages on a social networking site. You have to prove that its without the person’s consent and there is intent to harm or defraud or perhaps intimidate or threaten.”

Investigators say internet crime is on the rise. There’s even a government website called the Internet Crime Center. John Kane works manages and works with that site. He says many of the incidents go unreported.

“With a lot of these crimes people don’t know where to turn.. They might be victimized by someone who is across the country; they don’t think it’s a local police matter; they might throw up their hands and say ‘I don’t know where to go’, so we try to take some of the guess work out of the process for them.”

For those who might think jail is a little harsh for what some might consider a prank, both Kane and Good say even pranks can go too far and the law should reflect that. 

“A lot of people are all for freedom of speech as it relates to the online environment but really there are lines in the sand that need to be drawn and in some cases, civil or criminal penalties are appropriate.”

“People are getting more and more creative and as the internet is used more and more as a way of allegedly retaliating or harming someone, then the legislature is trying to keep up with technology.”

Under the new law, a person can get probation up to ten years in prison. But when they get out, if they need an apt, used car or even some cheap clothes, they can find that on Craigslist as well.