Police on Monday arrested a Medford couple who allegedly used hoax postings on Craigslist to cover up their own thefts from a rural Jacksonville residence later inundated by Craigslist readers who thought the house's contents were free pickings for the taking.
Amber D. Herbert, 28, and Brandon D. Herbert, 29, were taken into custody on burglary, theft and computer crime charges involving the Craigslist hoax that drew international attention and cost the victim several thousand dollars, authorities said.
The Herberts owned the computer used to post two Craigslist messages March 22 that invited readers to help themselves to what was purported to be abandoned belongings, including a horse, according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.
But it was just a ruse to cover the Herberts' own thefts of horse saddles and other items from a garage on the Sterling Creek Road property a few days earlier, Jackson County sheriff's Sgt. Colin Fagan said.
The Herberts originally went to the house, on the 7900 block of Sterling Creek Road because it was listed as a rental property and the Herberts were looking for a rental, Fagan said.
The Herberts and the victim, Robert Salisbury, had no other connection, Fagan said.
"Other Craigslist hoaxes we're seen were malicious, but this was not the revenge-type thing we were expecting," Fagan said after Monday's arrests.
"But it was pretty sinister," Fagan said.
The Herberts, who have no criminal records in Oregon, were each taken into custody on charges of first-degree theft, conspiracy to commit second-degree burglary and two counts of conspiracy to commit computer crime.
They were lodged Monday at the Jackson County Jail, where they were each being held in lieu of $30,000 bail.
Detectives used computer records to trace the postings to the Herbert's computer, which they turned over when asked last week, police said.
Several deleted files and other evidence linking the computer to the Craigslist posts were discovered on the computer, yet both suspects denied any involvement with the posts, police said.
However, the Herberts told police they took several saddles from the property and sold them over the Internet.
Anyone who recently has purchased any saddles from a Medford resident or believe they might have some of the Salisbury's property is urged to telephone sheriff's detectives at 541-774-6812.
The Salisburys would have lost more had not one of the Craigslist readers called Salisbury after the second posting stated that everything on the property was fair game. That call brought Salisbury to the property, where more than two dozen people were rifling through the family's belongings and insisting they were allowed to by the Craigslist ad.
Police were called and settled the situation, but not before several carloads of items disappeared.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail email@example.com.