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Free mowers in Craigslist ad weren't his to give

The advertisement on Craigslist read:

3 free lawn mowers

rider mower

2 push mowers, both work but need blade sharpened

These are old but do work

do not knock on door, wife is sick

First come first take, need gone asap.

It listed the address, on Primrose Lane in Sandalwood Mobile Home Park in Zephyrhills, and said the mowers were on the side of the house.

May be gone throughout the day, these units may be picked up if not home.

Turns out the owner of the mowers — the 70-year-old president of the community's homeowner association — didn't create the ad. He left his home at about 8 on the morning of April 10. When he came home that afternoon, a man got out of a van and asked him where the free mowers were. The man showed him the Craigslist ad. The mowers were already gone.

Authorities say the ad's creator was Craig Stern, 39, a vengeful neighbor who "has been in trouble with the community and has been thrown out of all facilities" in the park, a report states. Stern was arrested Tuesday and charged with grand theft. He was released from the Pasco County jail that same day on $5,000 bail.

This case is similar to one in June, when authorities say a woman offered her neighbor's trailer for free on Craigslist because she wanted his parking spot. She was also arrested.

"We say this time and time again," said Kevin Doll, spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Doll urged people to be cautious when using Internet sites.

"You're dealing with someone out there who may or may not be honest," he said.

On sites where people buy, sell and trade there's little to prevent someone selling or giving away something that isn't theirs — but Doll said Internet ads can be traced. It happened in the case above and another recent one, this time in Holiday.

Authorities say 19-year-old Joshua J. Dexter thought it would be funny to post an ad saying he had a 5-month-old girl for sale. He attached a photo of a friend's baby. Somebody saw the ad and contacted the Sheriff's Office, which tracked the computer's IP address to a home in Holiday Lake Estates. About 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, a deputy knocked on the door and spoke with Dexter.

"I made a joke on Craigslist," Dexter said, according to a report.

He said he didn't think anyone would take it seriously.

Dexter is currently on felony probation for fleeing to elude law enforcement officers without regard, driving with a suspended or revoked license and having an improper tag, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. He was not arrested because of the baby hoax.

"There was no baby. There was no victim," Doll said. "It was just the poor choice of a person with too much time on his hands."

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Free mowers in Craigslist ad weren't his to give 07/14/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 9:04pm]
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