Independence Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Lure Robbery Victims with Online Ads for Escorts
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tom Larson, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that an Independence, Mo., man pleaded guilty in federal court today for his role in a conspiracy to use online escort ads to lure robbery victims.
Sage E. Harrison, 35, of Independence, pleaded guilty before U.S. Chief District Judge Greg Kays to the robbery conspiracy and to two counts of aiding and abetting robbery.
By pleading guilty today, Harrison admitted that he participated in the conspiracy to commit robbery from April 1, 2015, to June 7, 2016. Conspirators used several websites (including craigslist.org, backpage.com and skout.com) to make connections with their victims and arrange meetings at local hotels, residences and apartments. When customers arrived for the meetings, conspirators would be lying in wait, armed with firearms and weapons that appeared to be firearms, and rob the customers.
Harrison also admitted that he aided and abetted in the commission of two specific robberies in Independence, Mo., on Oct. 24, 2015.
Conspirators contacted a victim through an ad on craigslist and arranged to meet at a location in Independence. Harrison and another co-conspirator were waiting and, when the victim arrived, pointed what appeared to be firearms and robbed him of his wallet and cell phone. Harrison forced the victim to his vehicle and searched it for further items and stole cash.
Conspirators contacted a second victim through another craigslist ad and arranged to meet at an apartment in Independence the same day. Harrison and another co-conspirator were waiting and robbed the victim when he arrived, taking his wallet and cash.
Harrison, who had an outstanding warrant, was arrested by Independence police officers the next day and found to be in possession of the second victim’s wallet and cell phone. Agents recovered a laptop computer from the location of the robbery and discovered that Harrison’s Facebook account had been accessed from the laptop, along with the craigslist website, on the date of the robberies. Investigators found a photo of Harrison posing with what appears to be a firearm, wearing a black ball cap described by one of the robbery victims.
Records obtained from Facebook revealed multiple communications between conspirators about the robberies, including conversations about the two robberies to which Harrison pleaded guilty. An example message from Harrison’s account stated, “remember I told you about my escort friend and dropping they pockets.” The term “dropping pockets” was used by several conspirators and is known to be a reference to conducting a robbery.
On Oct. 25, 2015, just prior to his arrest, another co-conspirator messaged Harrison and said, “Hey where u at”. Harrison replied, “At my safe spot.”
Records obtained from Google revealed dozens of e-mail confirmation notices from Kansas City area hotels, along with numerous e-mail notifications from craigslist.org and backpage.com of men responding to ads.
Records obtained from Backpage, related to phone numbers and e-mail addresses used in the robberies, revealed eight related accounts. Each account was associated with a specific e-mail address that served as the account username. According to Backpage.com records, posts were placed in the sections “Body Rubs,” “Escorts,” and “Domination & Fetish” sections, using several different names. The records identified 31 different phone numbers which were posted in the associated ads, and that 126 separate posts were made.
Records obtained from Craigslist related to phone numbers and email addresses used in the robberies revealed 11 related accounts. Those 11 accounts had been used to post 89 ads between Sept. 28, 2015 and Jan. 7, 2016. According to Craigslist records, posts were predominantly placed in the “Casual Encounters” section using approximately 27 different names.
Under federal statutes, Harrison is subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole on each count. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew P. Wolesky. It was investigated by the FBI, and the Independence, Mo., Police Department, with assistance from the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the North Kansas City, Mo., Police Department and the Blue Springs, Mo., Police Department.