Recently, members of the Bethel Bargains Facebook group posted complaints alleging fraud and scamming. Now police are investigating.
What started out as a post to warn others about a failed purchase exploded into dozens of responses alleging fraud, selling broken items, and failed transactions.
Florence Mark of Quinhagak says she bought a hunting rifle from an individual advertising on the Bethel Bargains facebook page on September 15th. She says she paid through a wire transfer and the gun was supposed to be shipped to her, but it never showed up.
“They had agreed to ship the gun to me via freight with an airline of my choice, which did not happen. The Facebook name appeared as ‘Christine Andrew,’ which later I found out was a fake profile,” says Mark.
Mark says she made the transfer to an account belonging to a Kyle Thomas. She was even more disheartened when she contacted the phone number listed with the original posting to inquire about why the firearm hadn’t arrived.
“There was lack of communication, they weren’t giving me updates about anything, and the only time that they talked to me was when I texted them. The lady that answered the phone didn’t seem to know what was going on because all she said was that they’re dropping something off, she didn’t specify what they were dropping off until I mentioned ‘maybe it was the gun’ and she was like ‘yeah that’s the gun,'” says Mark.
After two days of waiting she posted a warning to Bethel Bargains facebook page with the phone number she was given. Soon after, there were dozens of responses to her post from people who knew the phone number.
Others allege that stolen items are being sold through the site. Roberta Swope, of Bethel, posted about her experience purchasing crowberries, or ‘blackberries,’ around the same time from the same number that Mark had problems with. After the purchase Swope came to a horrifying discovery.
“After I did my own little investigating and asking questions. I later came to find out that those berries I purchased were stolen berries. Ugh! I felt horrible now knowing I purchased stolen goods, let alone from an elderly woman,” says Swope.
Swope discovered that berries matching the ones she bought were stolen from an elderly woman around the same time that she purchased hers. That realization came too late. She had already used the berries to make ‘akutaq.’
Another purchase that caught some attention involved a Toyostove 30. Sandra Gilbert moved to Soldotna from Bethel in 2009. She and her husband still own their home in Bethel. Her husband David comes here on occasion for work, and on one of those trips he realized that the toyo heating stove was missing. Gilbert’s husband discovered that someone had bought his stove through the Bethel Bargains site from the same number associated with the gun and the berries, and the purchaser was posting photos of it onto Bethel Bargains because the stove wasn’t working.
“They just removed the stove from the house, they left the vent and everything. So when I was reading the post on Bethel Bargains, it caught my attention because he did buy a stove, he said which was stolen. And so I had to ask if there was a vent to it because ours was stolen and they left a vent and so if he had bought a Toyostove without a vent then it’s a possibility that it could be ours,” says Gilbert.
Bethel Police Chief Andre Achee says that there’s been a spate allegations of theft and fraud recently, mostly revolving around the Bethel Bargains facebook page and the Bethel Police Department is looking into all three cases, among others.
“We’ve had several people come to the police department reporting several types of theft by deceptions or by receiving or by fraud, that they were on facebook under the tap Bethel Bargains and that that purchased or agreed to purchase items on Bethel Bargains, sent money and either did not receive he items or purchased the items and discovered the items were stolen or didn’t belong to the people they purchased them from,” says Achee.
Chief Achee adds that people should be careful when purchasing items through Bethel Bargains and other online social networking sites. He says it’s best to do transactions face-to-face and to get a sales receipt. And he adds, people should avoid wiring money to people they don’t know.