Online seller Letgo sued over murder and robbery of couple who were using app to buy a car

The online selling platform Letgo is facing a wrongful death lawsuit after a couple was robbed and killed while using the app as they tried to buy an SUV in a Denver, Colorado suburb in 2020.

The lawsuit filed by family of the victims – Joe and Jossline Roland – in federal court on Thursday asserts that the app was negligent because it allowed the man who killed the parents of five children to become a “verified seller” while using a fake name despite his criminal past.

The suit also named OfferUp, which has acquired the platform, as a defendant. The legal filing notes that Letgo says it is working with authorities to keep users safe, but that a working email address is all that’s required to be verified as a seller.

“The Letgo App provides an illusion that these alleged ‘verified’ accounts can and should be trusted above their online ‘marketplace’ competition,” the lawsuit says. “However, it has become increasingly clear that Letgo falsely advertises itself as a safe online marketplace for verified sellers without having any sort of legitimate verification process.”

On Thursday, an OfferUp spokesman said he was reviewing the lawsuit but didn’t comment further. The Letgo app was incorporated into a similar OfferUp app shortly after the Colorado shooting but still exists independently outside the US.

Joseph Roland was trying to find a car for his teenage daughter when he saw a Toyota RAV4 being sold by James Worthy – a “verified seller”. The name was fake, and the man who had put up the Letgo ad was Kyree Brown, 18.

“What was supposed to be a brief and safe transaction through Letgo — turned into a tragic nightmare,” the lawsuit states.

Police are urging buyers and sellers to meet in more secure locations, such as outside a police station.

Brown told the couple that he had brought the wrong vehicle title by accident and asked them to meet him in another location, the lawsuit states, adding that they were “unsuspecting of any danger, since James Worthy was a Letgo ‘verified seller’”.

Brown then allegedly took out a handgun and shot the couple, killing them both as Mr Roland tried to take the gun from him.

Investigators say the teen then fled with the $3,000 in cash the Rolands had brought with them to pay for the SUV, which had been reported stolen a few days before the meeting, on 14 August 2020.

Brown was arrested about two weeks later and has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

“It is outrageous conduct that Letgo led customers to believe the App had any legitimate verification process when, any user, (let alone Mr Brown – who had a criminal record), could use fictitious names and sell stolen vehicles as ‘verified’ by simply providing an e-mail address,” the lawsuit states, which adds that if the verification process was more strict, police would have been able to arrest the suspect sooner.

OfferUp says in the “Terms of Service” section on its site that meetup spots, such as police stations, should be placed in well-lit, busy areas with surveillance cameras. But it also says that users acknowledge there are risks when buying and selling on an internet-based marketplace.

“It is possible that other users may attempt to physically harm or defraud you or obtain information from you for fraudulent purposes,” the terms state. They also note that OfferUp does not investigate or verify any user’s criminal background.

The lawsuit is seeking damages and accuses Letgo and OfferUp of negligence fraud, misrepresentation and deceptive and unfair trade practices.

The Independent has reached out to OfferUp for comment.

Jossline Roland used to work for the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya in Denver – the office filed the lawsuit along with Geragos & Geragos, a law firm based in Los Angeles.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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