TAMPA — Two men used the online classifieds service Backpage.com to prey on escorts who they raped and robbed at gunpoint in a pair of home invasions this week, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said.
Corey Terrell Coleman, 20, and Ikeem Alonzo Taylor, 19, were arrested Monday and admitted the crimes to detectives, according to the sheriff’s office.
Deputies said the men contacted the first victim Sunday through backpage.com, a website similar to Craigslist that lists some ads in an “adult services” section.
The 20-year-old woman made arrangements for a date at her home, deputies said. About 2:50 p.m., she heard a knock and answered her door to find Taylor in the doorway with a semi-automatic handgun, according to the sheriff’s office.
Taylor pointed the gun at the woman as he grabbed her by the back of the head, forced her into the home and raped her, deputies said. He took two PlayStation 3 video game consoles, two Call of Duty video games and a laptop valued at $300, then used the woman’s phone to call someone and say “I’m about to come out,” the sheriff’s office said.
He fled in a 2000 Ford Escort driven by Coleman, authorities said. Later that evening, the men went to a Game Stop store and received $65.20 for the stolen games, deputies said.
On Monday, the sheriff’s office said the men struck again, making arrangements with a different escort who placed an ad on Backpage.
Taylor arrived in the same Ford Escort driven by Coleman, entered the 31-year-old woman’s home and pointed a handgun at the side of her head before raping her and taking her $350 cellphone, deputies said.
Detectives tracked the suspects using a description of the vehicle along with surveillance video taken near one of the victims’ homes, deputies said. Investigators were then able to track the Game Stop transaction to identify the suspects.
Coleman was arrested at the Shell gas station at Falkenburg Road and Highway 60. Taylor was arrested at a nearby Red Roof Inn.
Both men are charged with sexual battery, robbery home invasion and dealing in stolen property. Taylor faces additional charges of providing false information on a pawnbroker form and armed false imprisonment.
Craigslist censored its adult services section in 2010 after prosecutors across the country criticized the classifieds site for not doing enough to block potentially illegal ads promoting prostitution. Now, the site has a “personals” section and requires visitors to confirm that they are 18 or older before redirecting them to the page.
While Hillsborough deputies don’t often deal with cases involving Backpage, investigators often look into crimes involving people who met and exchanged information on the Internet, said HCSO spokeswoman Debbie Carter.
Last year, the sheriff’s office joined several other agencies in creating “safe sale zones” and allowing people to complete their transactions in the sheriff’s office parking lots.
Criminals who target victims online are a problem everywhere, Carter said.
“Criminals keep up with the technology,” she said.