A Craigslist scheme that stretched from Spokane to Miami led police to a Coeur d’Alene motel this week, where they arrested a suspect wanted in five states after would-be buyers said he ripped them off through fraudulent advertisements.
Joshua J. Mulvey, 25, was arrested on a second-degree theft charge Tuesday at Motel 6 in Coeur d’Alene after detectives searched his Spokane apartment last week.
Mulvey escaped during that search, police say, climbing into the attic of a neighboring apartment and fleeing out a window. Detectives used a cell phone tower ping triggered by Mulvey’s mobile phone to trace him to Coeur d’Alene, according to police.
Mulvey, the son of veteran Spokane County sheriff’s Deputy Ronald Mulvey, was in the Kootenai County Jail awaiting transport to Spokane.
His arrest came after a weeks-long police investigation that used search warrants to track Internet ads and electronic payments and employed a fake e-mail address to help catch a man detectives say has a history of seeking out victims through popular online classified Web sites such as Craigslist, where buyers and sellers from across the country meet.
Mulvey was arrested in a 2004 investigation where a group used Internet fraud to obtain stolen car parts to make its vehicles fast for street racing, detectives said at the time.
Investigators in that case described Mulvey as a “genius” who had the talent to work for government intelligence agencies but used his smarts to con sellers into shipping him cars and parts without paying first.
He pleaded guilty to 14 felonies and was sentenced to about seven years in prison in November 2004; he’s allegedly been back in Spokane since at least March 2009. That’s when an Oregon woman told Spokane police her son had paid $330 for vehicle parts to Mulvey over the Internet that were never shipped, according to a search warrant filed this week in Spokane County District Court.
Similar reports came in from other states, including a California man who said in November that he’d sent Mulvey $2,200 for a car he never received.
He said he’d found Mulvey through a Craigslist advertisement for a 1999 Honda Civic the seller, Mulvey, claimed had been stolen in Santa Monica and recovered with parts missing. Police believe that was a common lie that Mulvey used to explain why he was asking so little for the cars.
The next month, a San Diego man said he’d sent Mulvey $1,500 for a down payment on a car he never received. That same month, Snohomish County detectives told Spokane police Detective Corey Turman that Mulvey was a suspect in another Craigslist fraud case.
Turman opened an e-mail address using the name “Jack Applewhite” and allegedly contacted Mulvey about an Acura Integra that Mulvey claimed had been stolen in Los Angeles then recovered with parts missing. He agreed to send the suspect a $2,900 money order but sent $29 instead, then used search warrants to pull records on Craigslist ads associated with Mulvey’s name and on money orders linked to the alleged fraud.
Internet provider addresses from the postings led police to Mulvey’s apartment at 6901 N. Wiscomb St., which detectives searched last week. Investigators found a laptop computer that they believe Mulvey was using to post a new Craigslist ad before they arrived.