He thought he was buying a cellphone but got robbed instead

The lesson: If you’re buying from someone online, don’t do the exchange in a dark parking lot.

LYNNWOOD — A young man arranged a meeting with someone who went by “Swaysway” online.

They gathered in a drug store parking lot in Lynnwood the day after Christmas. The 19-year-old showed up to buy a cellphone, according to a probable cause affidavit. A gray Volkswagen was waiting for him after midnight. He climbed in the passenger seat, leaving the door ajar, and started talking with a man inside.

Meanwhile, someone in the backseat grabbed him. A knife was held to his throat. They took $350, his debit cards and his driver’s license, according to court papers.

The young man escaped, but so did the suspects in the Volkswagen. Officers arrested one of them Saturday.

The suspect, a 29-year-old Everett man, had coordinated the meeting through OfferUp, a website where people can sell belongings. He has a history of theft convictions. He also was charged with forgery and possession of a controlled substance in October.

On that December night, the young man fought back. He grabbed the knife and pushed his way out of the Volkswagen, according to court papers. He ran to his car and followed the suspects as they drove north on Highway 99. He relayed the license plate number to police.

He later needed surgery to mend a cut to his hand, police said.

The gray Volkswagen has been tied to recent crimes around south Snohomish County, including thefts at a south Everett gas station, a T-Mobile store in Bothell and a home improvement store in Mill Creek.

A Washington State Patrol trooper spotted the Volkswagen early Saturday. The car was parked at the Silver Lake rest area off of I-5. The suspect and a woman were inside. She was arrested in connection with the Mill Creek theft, according to court papers.

The officer looked in the suspect’s wallet. He reportedly found a driver’s license belonging to the young man who had been robbed. When the officer asked the suspect for his name, he allegedly claimed to be the 19-year-old. They looked similar, police said.

However, a credit card in the wallet listed the suspect’s true name.

He was arrested for investigation of first-degree robbery and second-degree identity theft.

Some local police departments have established safe areas where people can exchange items purchased online. The city of Marysville partnered with OfferUp to create one of these safe spaces. People can meet at the police department’s parking lot, which is well-lit and monitored by surveillance cameras.

Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; ctompkins @heraldnet.com

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