An Internet ad offering a 4-year-old boy for $5,000 that launched a Spokane County Sheriff’s Office investigation and drew international attention turned out to be the work of a bored North Idaho teenager.
Sandpoint police tracked the Craigslist ad to a 17-year-old boy, who told an investigator he posted it as a joke.
“He was home with nothing else to do,” said Sandpoint police Lt. Corey Coon, who took over the investigation after Spokane County investigators tracked the computer that created the post to that area of North Idaho. “He thought it’d be funny.”
But authorities aren’t laughing. Coon is investigating possible criminal charges such as identity theft, fraud or violation of Idaho’s adoption laws. He hopes to send his report to the Bonner County Prosecutor’s Office by Monday.
The boy wrote an apology letter over the weekend after Coon confronted him at his home on Friday. The teen didn’t realize the concern he caused or the time investigators spent trying to determine if the ad was a hoax, Coon said Tuesday. The boy used a child’s photo he found on the Internet when he posted the ad, Coon said.
The investigation, which drew attention from across the country, began March 1 when a Spokane woman told police of a Craigslist ad she spotted on Feb. 28 that offered a boy named Gavin for $5,000. The ad was removed by Craigslist shortly after it was posted. The tipster saved the text – but not the photo – and sent it to police.
The ad’s author, who identified himself as Rick Obelophy, claimed to be the boy’s father. He said he wouldn’t give the boy “to anyone.”
“He doesn’t fuss very much, but when he does he just screams for hours. I usually just put him in his closet until he stops and that usually works,” the ad read.
Spokane County sheriff’s Deputy Damon Simmons spent hours tracking the ad’s author through several search warrants served on Internet service providers. The Sheriff’s Office announced last week that the case had been transferred to Sandpoint police.
The boy is home-schooled and is not well known to police, Coon said.
“He doesn’t come from a troubled home or anything like that,” Coon said. “His parents were definitely concerned and shocked that he’d done it.”