UPDATE 11:30 P.M. APRIL 6: 13 Action News Crime and Safety Expert, retired police Lt. Randy Sutton has advice on how you can safely use dating websites.
"Don't simply go to a place that is private and isolated for your first meeting with someone," said Sutton.
Sutton says, at first, it's best to only meet in a public place.
According to police, at least two victims in this crime spree were men.
"Men are very vulnerable," Sutton said. "Men are looking for love just like women are."
The retired police lieutenant says suspects in these cases leave a digital footprint.
"There's contact information, there's URL information," he said. "... This is felony stuff."
ORIGINAL: Two different men who believed they were meeting up with a woman from a dating website were kidnapped and had their vehicles stolen, according to court documents.
Michaelyn Herring and Joseph Oliveira were indicted on kidnapping, robbery, burglary, credit card fraud and grand larceny auto-related charges related to the incidents in January and February, according to court documents filed Thursday. They were involved in an alleged "catfish" scheme where someone lures another person into meeting under false pretenses, generally on dating websites.
During the incident on Feb. 12, a man told police he contacted the woman, later identified as Herring, on dating website Plenty of Fish and they agreed to meet up.
But when they met in person, the man said that the woman did not match her profile. After she entered his car for their date, an unknown man, later identified as Oliveira, also entered the car moments later.
The man told police that the male suspect grabbed him around the throat with one arm and pushed a hard metal object, believed to be a gun, with the other before he was told to get in the backseat. His iPhone and $40 in cash were taken.
According to the arrest report, the couple then drove to a Bank of America to withdraw cash with the victim's credit card to buy cocaine with.
Shortly after that, the victim told police he was questioned about what property he might have inside his home. The victim said that his roommates would be home and was told to tell his roommates that the couple were friends of his.
While at the residence, the victim said he tried to act like he was friends with the couple and talked to the male suspect about making his vehicle disappear. The man then told the victim that he wasn't "like all the other licks."
After stopping by a CVS, Terrible's, PT's Pub and Don Tortaco's, the couple then drove the victim's vehicle to the area of Valley View Boulevard and Sahara Avenue before dropping the victim off.
The victim then walked back to his residence and told his roommates what happened. They told him to contact police. When speaking with police, the victim also brought up the woman's Plenty of Fish profile to find it had been deleted.
Police then determined that there was another, possibly related case where a woman met a man through the MeetMe app, where the male suspect got into the car and forced the victim to withdraw money.
After further investigation, police determined the first incident occurred on Jan. 4 when police said Herring posted on her Facebook profile, "Gott em" with a picture of her and Oliveira. According to the indictment, Herring and Oliveira also stole this male victim's vehicle and personal belongings and kidnapped him as well.
ATM footage ended up matching Herring's license photo. Records checks determined Herring had previous arrests for robbery, assault, theft, burglary and burglary of a vehicle.
Oliveira was going by his brother's name, Johnathan Oliveira, which did not show any criminal history. Joseph Oliveira told police he was using his brother's identity due to having multiple warrants.
Oliveira also told police that he "rescued" Herring from an abusive relationship and said he spent thousands of dollars attempting to get Herring detoxed from drugs.
He said he got the idea to commit the crimes after he was once robbed at gunpoint while attempting to meet a woman off a dating website. But he said Herring was doing it to feed her drug habit.