Two people were arrested Tuesday in connection with an alleged robbery ring involving automobile listings on Craigslist, and authorities say an investigation is continuing in an attempt to locate others who may be involved.
Brittany Smith, 23, and Cameron Arnold, 28, were taken into custody after police et up surveillance at an isolated area on the west side of the city, Detective Lt. Terry Hopson said during a court hearing for Smith and Arnold on Thursday.
Hopson said he was contacted by Lt. Joe Paul Harrell, who had received information from a Tennessee woman who had answered an ad about a vehicle and came to the city with her husband, but left after arriving at the location and not seeing the vehicle that had been advertised.
Hopson said the woman contacted police after seeing another ad for a vehicle, and allowed officers to use her phone to set up a meeting because the suspects would not answer calls from Arkansas phone numbers. Additionally, the ads did not run in the state, but in other states like Tennessee and Mississippi.
On Tuesday, two detectives in an unmarked police car posing as the woman and her husband staked out the area, while the suspects sent text and voice messages to set up the meeting, Hopson said.
Hopson said police had previously set up surveillance cameras and saw a 2004 Cadillac that had picked up the suspect on a previous occasion, and saw that car and a second vehicle pull up to the area, then flee when they saw the officers.
A Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputy stopped the Cadillac, which had a fictitious license plate, with Smith driving and Arnold in the passenger seat, Hopson said during the hearing. Police located several cell phones in the car, one of them with the phone number of the woman from Tennessee on it, as well as various text messages, according to Hopson.
After obtaining a search warrant, police linked one of the cell phones to email messages to Craigslist posting the ads, Hopson said.
Hopson said when Smith was interviewed, she allegedly admitted her involvement and Arnold “admitted limited involvement” in the incidents.
He said Arnold is on parole and the Department of Correction has issued a warrant for his arrest as an absconder.
Acting on instructions from Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter, Deputy Prosecutor Maxie Kizer asked Pine Bluff District Judge John Kearney to set a $25,000 bond for Smith, and a $100,000 cash-only bond for Arnold on conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery.
Kearney agreed to the request, and also ordered Arnold to have no contact with Smith until the case is settled.
Kizer said additional charges are being considered against both Smith and Arnold as a result of the ongoing investigation.
Smith said she would hire her own attorney and the Public Defender’s Office was appointed to represent Arnold.