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Man Arrested in Craigslist Car Sale Scam

The suspect attempted to sell a car to a family that was actually registered to Hertz Car Rental.

A 59-year-old transient man staying in a Belmont motel was arrested Saturday after attempting to defraud a family over the sale of a vehicle that he advertised on Craigslist.

According to spokesperson, Lt. Pat Halleran, on Sat., Aug. 4, a family responded to an ad on Craigslist from a person selling a 2011 Nissan Altima. 

The victims, who were from the East Bay, arranged to meet the alleged seller, Christopher John Prew, at near the Walgreen's store on Ralston Avenue to possibly purchase the car. 

After agreeing to purchase the car, the victims handed over a $500 cash deposit to to Prew. Prew said that he would meet them later, where they could pay him the balance and he would hand over the car and the title. After Prew left with the vehicle, the victims grew suspicious and called Belmont police. 

Officers determined that the vehicle Prew was selling was actually registered to Hertz Car Rental and had been rented by Prew.

Using information provided by the victims, Prew was contacted about the car and a meeting was set for another location in Belmont, with a person Prew thought was another potential buyer.  When Prew arrived in the rented Nissan, he was met by Belmont police officers and was taken custody without incident.

He was booked into San Mateo County Jail on one charge of theft by false pretense and an outstanding arrest warrant out in Santa Clara County. The car was returned to Hertz.

Lt. Pat Halleran says that Prew may have tried this scam before, and hopes that by posting his photo, other victims may come forth.

"It's hard to believe that he just came up with this scam on Saturday. He's probably done this before and if he did, perhaps someone will recognize him and say 'this happened to me too'" said Halleran.

Halleran added, "This is a good wake-up call for people to the potential scams that are out there. There are good things on Craigslist, but you could also be scammed."

Anyone who may have information on this incident, or any other similar crimes involving Prew, are asked to contact Belmont Police at 650-595-7400 or the Belmont Police Crime Tip Line at 650-598-3000.

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coy August 09, 2012 at 08:17 AM
Highly doubtful he is actually transient? How does a transient have a credit card to rent a car? Use common sense people!
Joan S. Dentler August 09, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Thanks for your comment Coy.... that transient doesn't necessarily equal homeless--it just means he moves from place to place. The suspect was staying in a Belmont motel and obviously had a cc to rent a car and hotel room. Police think he may have tried this scam (possibly successfully) in other places, which is one reason his photo accompanies this story. If anyone else has been a victim of this scam, perhaps they will recognize him and call police.
mark August 09, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Use common sense coy!
Gopal Das August 10, 2012 at 05:49 PM
I think everybody should check out the Scam Detector app. I believe they're online as well.

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