MORRISVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — The power of social media proved to be an effective tool after landing three men behind bars this week.

As it turns out, this scary ordeal started with social media.

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“That’s a traumatic incident for anybody.  Much less somebody that’s 16 years-old,” described Police Chief Pete Acosta.

Wednesday morning, police say a 16-year-old, who was selling an iPhone through Facebook Marketplace, met with the assumed buyers in his neighborhood.

“They came to buy the phone with not very good intentions using some counterfeit currency,” Acosta stated.

Acosta said when the teen spoke up, they pulled out a gun, took his phone, and left. 

Fortunately, he was not hurt. 

A few hours after the crime was reported to police, investigators came across a huge lead on Facebook Marketplace.

“It didn’t take our investigators long to get some potential suspects trying to sell some phones online.  So, we were able to put some undercovers on that and we actually invited them to come sell it back to us in the police department parking lot and they came,” Acosta said.

Michael Purcell, Emmanuel Purcell, and Jaylin Beal were arrested.  Officers said they not only found the stolen phone, but two stolen guns, and a stolen MacBook.

Acosta said people should be aware of where they buy or sell items from online.

“One, it’s important to not be by yourself when you do those types of transactions first of all.  It’s a good idea not to use your home as a meeting place whether it be you selling or buying.  It’s always safer to be in a central place and maybe even in public,” he said.

Police, like a lot of agencies in our area, have safe zones in the parking lot where you can buy and sell items.

The three men arrested face a list of charges, including armed robbery, possession of a stolen firearm, and possession of a counterfeit instrument.