The popular Facebook page "Bemidji Area Online Sale" -- a kind of local Craigslist for the northern Minnesota city -- helps connect buyers and sellers of just about everything, from cars to pets.
On July 29, something new popped up on the page. "WEED FOR SALE!!!" the post read, and included a photo: a dozen neatly stacked jars just a little larger than a soda can, packed with dense green nuggets.
[jump] The administrator of the Facebook page, Shawn Williams, quickly found himself in strange territory. As the post racked up more than 200 comments, Williams fielded angry calls asking him to take down the photo.
But then the police were involved. They needed the post to stay up, according to the Bemidji Pioneer, so that they could track it.
The original poster, identified on Facebook as "Darrin Michael Thompson (Darrin Fuller)," informed interested commenters that he'd be ready to make a sale in the parking lot at the Target.
"in a black and silver taurus if yall serious lol," he wrote, the Bemidji Pioneer reported.
Two Beltrami County Sheriff's Office deputies staked out the parking lot, but the Taurus never showed.
Online sleuthing, however, offered another clue. While police weren't able to get any leads from tracking the poster's IP address, a reverse Google image search had another hit for the soda can image: It first showed up on the marijuana forum www.buymarijuanaseeds.com in May 2009.
If Thompson's aim was to see if he could catch any believers with a hoax, then it worked: He got the police.
Now, any other Bemidji dealers trying to peddle their goods will have a harder time doing so on the same Facebook page. A week after Thompson's July 29 photo ignited a local controversy, Williams deleted tens of thousands of photos from the page, and changed his guidelines for posting.
UPDATE 2:25 p.m.:
Still on the case, the Bemidji police tracked down the Facebook user behind the original "WEED FOR SALE!!!" post. Turns out, the guy wasn't out to prank the cops: He was the victim of a prank himself.
Police Chief Mike Mastin told the Associated Press this morning that the poster's friends had hacked into his account and posted in the online market without his knowledge.
Now that they know for sure that a dozen jars of marijuana aren't floating around their city waiting to be sold, the Bemidji police will drop the case, Mastin said.