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Amateur Detective Tracks Down Kijiji Scammer

MONTREAL — If you scam Raffi Laleyan, he will find you.

It might not be today, it might not be tomorrow, but eventually, the 25-year-old web developer will have satisfaction.

That appears to be the lesson his scammer has learned after Laleyan thwarted a 17-year-old who sold him a fake Samsung phone in the West Island a few weeks ago. Armed with his girlfriend’s cellphone and Google Street View, Laleyan channelled his inner gumshoe and tracked the alleged con artist to a bus stop in Pointe-Claire Sunday before having him arrested.

“I knew in my head I was gonna catch this guy,” Laleyan told The Gazette. “You don’t screw me over — you just don’t.”

It all started a few weeks ago on the Montreal Classifieds section of Kijiji.ca. Laleyan was looking to buy a second-hand phone when he saw a post advertising the sale of a Samsung S5 for $400.

He contacted the seller and agreed to buy the phone, but not before doing his due diligence. After verifying the phone’s serial number, Laleyan met the young man on St-Jean Blvd. The 17-year-old arrived on time, riding a bright yellow bicycle and wearing a red shirt.

At first everything seemed to check out: the phone worked, and it came in its factory-issued box with the instruction manual and all the necessary bells and whistles.

“Everything looked kosher to me,” Laleyan said. “He was a nice, respectful kid.”

But when Laleyan went home and tried to perform a factory reset on the device, an error message kept resurfacing. That’s when he realized he’d just been sold a knock-off.

Laleyan initially tried playing dumb, contacting the teen and pretending he wasn’t tech savvy and needed help programming the Samsung. He even used his girlfriend’s phone to pose as a potential new client, offering to buy the device for $400.

When that didn’t work, Laleyan decided to do a little amateur sleuthing. It turned out the seller messaged Laleyan using an online forwarding service to avoid having his information traced. Furthermore, possibly feeling the heat from a persistent Laleyan, he’d deleted his Kijiji account.

That’s when Laleyan turned to Google Street View.

“I thought, ‘If he met me on a bike, he can’t live that far,’ ” he said. “So I’m just using (Street View) to push through Pointe-Claire, and after a while I see a guy on a yellow bike, wearing a red shirt, going into a driveway. I hit the zoom button, zoom again, and bingo! Same body type, same hair; his face was blurred, but I knew I had him.”

Laleyan tried simply heading to the house from Street View and knocking on the door. No luck.

Finally, on Sunday, he decided it was time to end the cat-and-mouse game and track the seller down. He waited in his vehicle outside the suspect’s house, where a group of young men had gathered around a car in the driveway.

“I was far enough that they couldn’t see me but I could see them,” Laleyan said. “About 20 minutes later, I see him standing alone on the sidewalk. So I walked up to him and said, ‘Hey, remember me?’ I gave him two options: he could give me my money back or I could call the cops.”

The kid walked away, trying to ignore Laleyan, who called police as he followed him into a city bus.

“I told police to get here fast or I would put this guy down myself,” he said. “I wasn’t going to hurt him, but I knew if the cops thought I would, they’d show up fast.”

Within minutes, a patrol car forced the bus to pull over. Officers removed the suspect and, after searching him, found that he was in possession of a stolen mobile phone.

In the end, Laleyan got his money back and even squeezed in a pretty decent one-liner as police carried the young scammer away.

“The kid told me, ‘Don’t use Kijiji — you’ll get scammed,’ ” Laleyan said. “I said, ‘Shut up, kid, I’ve been using Kijiji since before you hit puberty.’ The cops laughed.”

Laleyan posted about the experience on Reddit and MontrealRacing.com. He says both posts have received thousands of views and he has been messaged a number of times by people who have fallen prey to similar scams.

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