Marine shot in Craigslist scam robbery

FORT LAUDERDALE -- A 29-year Marine officer’s attempt to sell jewelry through a classifieds website resulted in a near-deadly encounter when the buyers turned out to be armed robbers, the Broward Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.

U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Karl Trenker, 48, of Miramar, had arranged to sell an 18-inch gold necklace through Craigs- list.com, the Sheriff’s Office said. But when he showed up for the sale in Deerfield Beach while off duty Wednesday, he was robbed and shot several times in his torso, officials said.

Authorities are reminding the public to be wary of meeting strangers for such transactions, including any stemming from online ads. When selling or buying items through classifieds, residents should avoid secluded areas and strangers’ homes, the Sheriff’s Office said. They instead could arrange to meet at a crowded public location.

“Always be careful. It’s always safer not to do business with people you don’t know,” said Dani Moschella, a sheriff’s spokeswoman. “In this situation, these buyers turned out to be violent criminals.”

Trenker was taken to North Broward Medical Center, where he was listed in stable condition Thursday afternoon, according to Michael Wimbish, a spokesman for Marines Forces South.

“The prognosis for his recovery is good,” Wimbish said.

Two robbery suspects, Jeff Steele and James Flounory, both 20, of Deerfield Beach, were taken into custody Wednesday on one count each of attempted murder and robbery with a firearm, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

A third suspect, Andre Gayle, also 20, was arrested on the charge of carrying a concealed firearm, accused of hiding the firearm after the shooting, the Sheriff’s Office said.

On Thursday, Flounory and Steele were being held without bond at Broward’s Main Jail. Gayle was held on $2,000 bond at the same jail.

Trenker’s family declined to comment Thursday, referring questions to Marines Forces South.

Trenker, who has served the Marines since 1982, began serving as an operational planner for Marines Forces South, based in Doral, about a year ago, Wimbish said.

In recent years, he has completed tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Wimbish added.

Originally from the Tampa area, he and his family bought a home in Miramar this year, property records show. His online postings include photos of him spending time with family and holding a surfboard at the beach.

As a hobby, he draws and paints military-oriented artwork, saying he’s passionate about the military and art. His “passion” for serving his country made it “only natural that I turn my talents towards the military subject” for his artwork, he wrote on a website.

Trenker was robbed just before 3:30 p.m. at Tivoli Gardens apartments, a large subdivision in the 600 block of Siesta Key Circle, according to a sheriff’s report.

Trenker drove there with his children after arranging through Craigslist.com to sell the necklace to a man named “Galven”, the report said. Trenker’s children stayed in the vehicle as he met the would-be buyers at an outdoor location of the complex.

Steele and Flounory appeared and robbed him at gunpoint, the sheriff’s report said. Both men ran away after one of them “forcibly took” the necklace, the report said.

Trenker, whose profile pictures show him in good shape, ran after his assailants for several blocks. During the pursuit, Steele allegedly turned toward Trenker and fired multiple times at him, striking Trenker at least twice, the sheriff’s report said.

A witness approached Trenker and told him authorities were on their way. But Trenker returned to his vehicle despite his injuries, the sheriff’s report said. He went back to check on his children, who were OK.

Deputies arrived and arrested the three suspects, with help from witnesses.

Trenker’s 12-year-old son gave a description of the robbers, saying that he saw his father chasing the robbers. The boy didn’t witness the shooting afterward.

After Flounory was apprehended, an adult witness identified him as one of the men who fled from Trenker.

Deputies tracked Gayle to Steele’s home and found a .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol in his possession -- consistent with the shell casings found at the shooting site, the report said. Gayle told deputies that Steele had given him the gun after the shooting, officials said.

Trenker’s necklace, however, was not recovered.

During questioning by investigators, Flounory admitted that he and Steele planned the robbery, and that Steele offered him $200 for his participation, the Sheriff’s Office said.