MURRAY, Utah — A Utah man is warning others of the dangers of online marketplace shopping after he said he attempted to purchase something and was later robbed at gunpoint.
“I was in this parking spot,” Chris Bontempo said as he stood near the painted line of an empty parking stall in front of his apartment complex.
“As soon as I stepped out of my vehicle, that’s when he came from right here, kind of by the dumpster,” he continued as Bontempo pointed toward a nearby uphill area covered in tall grass and trees.
It was the last thing Chris expected when he got home Saturday night -- a man in a surgeon’s mask, coming right at him.
“He said just, ‘Drop all of your cash!’” Chris said as he recalled what had happened. “Then as soon as I dropped it that’s when he loaded one in the chamber… then, [the man said] just like, ‘hand me your phone and hand me your keys!’”
Chris said the stranger threw them at a carport nearby, destroying the phone and losing the keys – leaving Chris with no way to call for help or drive away.
“After that he picked up the cash, he ran,” Chris said. “He ran in-between these trees right here and then someone also came from that dumpster right there.”
An alleged trap right outside of his own home, which he believes started with an online marketplace.
“I was laid off and everything due to COVID-19, so I was looking at home I could make extra money, I saw a listing… for buying an iPhone 11 Pro Max,” Chris explained. “I figured I’d buy it and then flip it.”
Chris reached out to the seller via text and told them he was interested, they agreed on an amount and the seller told him he could come get it after work.
“I was supposed to pay 700 [dollars] and they’re worth roughly around 12-hundred dollars,” Chris said, hoping he would make back a 500-dollar profit on the re-sell.
Bontempo went to an address near 5200 South and 1100 East to make the Purchase.
“They said the lights were going to be dim, just to knock on the door,” he explained. “You’ll see, [the seller] said, a white house, it will have the porch light on and the gate to the walkway will be halfway open.”
Bontempo said when he got to the address, he saw exactly what the seller had described, so he knew “this must be the place.”
When he knocked on the door, he said an older couple answered the door… they were not selling an iPhone.
“I was like, ‘Hmm, that seems weird,’ so I end up trying to call the [seller] as I’m leaving, no one’s answering the phone,” said Chris.
So, he returned to his home near 4500 South, just east of State Street -- that’s when he told Murray City Police it happened.
“He exited his car in the parking lot and then was approached by the individual and he was robbed at gunpoint,” Officer Kenny Bass said reiterating the information from the police report. “I would say it’s abnormal for the city in and of itself, we’ve had a couple of issues with online purchasing, but not many quite like this.”
Now out 700-dollars and some change, Chris said he believes the robbery is no coincidence.
“If you had to put a percent on it, how sure are you that these two things are related?” FOX 13 asked Bontempo. “A hundred percent sure,” he said.
“I don’t know how anyone else would know, especially when it’s like 9:40 at night when I got back, like, ‘Hey this person has cash,’” he continued.
Chris said he does not remember the name of the seller; the listing has since been removed.
Still, he hopes others can learn from his lesson.
“I would never expect something like this to happen to me,” he said.
“People need to be vigilant of what’s going on during the [pandemic] right now,” Chris continued. “It seems like right now would be a good time for criminal to take advantage of those that are out of work, [and] a lot more people are going to have money from the stimulus payment.”
Murray Police said there are ways to help ensure you are utilizing online marketplaces safely. Bass recommends using a virtual form of payment so you aren’t carrying a lot of money on your person, and meeting in a public place, like a police station parking lot.
Police said, should this person be caught, they could face a minimum aggravated robbery charge which is a first-degree felony.