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Robbers use Facebook pages to target victims

February 19, 2014
Lehigh Acres Citizen

The Lee County Sheriff's Office would like to bring to light the consequences of conducting business online.

Recent arrests have shown that thieves may target you as a victim even through e-mails and text messages. 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, contact the sheriff's office or local law enforcement.

A recent example:

On Feb. 5, the LCSO received a call about an armed robbery at 1519 Michael Ave.

Deputies responded to the scene and met with two men who advised they had gone to the location to purchase used cellular phones.

The men had 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.

Their first contact was with Melina Maldonado, 18, of Lehigh Acres. She met the victims in the driveway and initiated the bogus transaction while a masked man, later identified as Gustavo Fernandes Souza, 19, of Lehigh Acres, approached from the opposite side of the vehicle, brandishing an AR15 rifle.

The two were forced at gunpoint out of the car and led to the garage where they were searched and robbed of their belongings by a third masked man, Xavier Rodriguez, 19, of Fort Myers.

The victims 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 Feb. 11, Maldonado and Rodriguez were located and charged. Souza was arrested on Feb. 12.

All were charged for robbery with a firearm and booked into the Lee County Jail.



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