Bicycle Pull-Apart owner Eric Patchen has been charged for trafficking stolen property following a Seattle Police investigation this spring that allegedly linked him and his Belltown shop to $10,000 worth of stolen bikes.
Patchen denied the allegations in an interview with Seattle Bike Blog, but the King County Prosecutor feels there is enough evidence to charge him with four criminal charges: Three charges for trafficking in stolen property in the second degree and one charge for attempted trafficking in stolen property in the second degree.
Patchen, who has no previous known criminal convictions, was officially charged June 17. He was released and ordered to have no contact with the three victims in the case.
The essence of the case is the same as it was when we outlined the allegations in April. However, SPD Detective Christopher Hall has filled in more details in the probable cause report.
Patchen is accused of running a “chop shop,” and that he was aware the bikes he bought were stolen. Between February 22, 2013 and January 2, 2014, BPA reported 79 purchases in the mandatory Leadsonline pawn sales tracking system. Of the 52 people who sold bikes, over half were convicted felons. Six customer names were reported incorrectly, and five of them were felons, the detective noted. At least five of the bikes taken in were reported stolen.
For example, the detective was following-up on the investigation when he saw a March 26 purchase of a high-end Litespeed Tuscany that retailed new in 2001 for $3,475 pop up in Leadsonline. The detective thought it was suspicious and looked into it. The seller’s name, it turned out, had been input incorrectly by using her middle name as her last name. She is “a known thief with three open and ongoing Auto Theft cases.”
The bike’s serial number was entered into the system as #6622355, which is odd because a Litespeed Tuscany was reported stolen in Wallingford around the same time with the serial #66223. It’s not clear from the report if Patchen or an employee of BPA conducted the buy, though the name used to register it in Leadsonline was not his.
The detective got a search warrant, and police went to BPA April 9. Sure enough, a Litespeed Tuscany with the serial #66223 was in the office area of the store. Police ran 75 bikes, but could only identify three of them (including the Litespeed) as stolen.
One of the bikes was a Ridley Icarus that was stolen near Seattle University September 21. What really sucks about this bike is that the victim was renting the bike at the time and had to reimburse the shop $1,400 after it was stolen. The person who sold it is a felon with three convictions for possession of stolen property. His name was entered incorrectly into the Leadsonline system.
The other bike was a Cannondaly Jekyll, a high-end mountain bike reported stolen August 9 in Queen Anne. No record was made of the purchase in the Leadsonline system, though the detective noted, “Had Patchen tried to input the Cannondale bicycle in Leadsonline, it would have come up stolen.”
The detective also noted that a person who had some expensive prototype bike lights stolen from his car later found some of his lights at BPA. The victim questioned Patchen about how he got the lights, and Patchen could not produce record of the purchase and gave the lights back with little resistance.
“The fact that he gave them back to [the victim] without any argument or payment is unusual considering how much Patchen has protested the seizure of the stolen bicycles and how much money he is out from the seizures,” the detective noted.
Patchen defended himself against the initial investigation and allegations, saying that he has always “followed the letter of the law.” He accused the police of not wanting to do the hard work of catching actual thieves.
“They [SPD] want to pin it on somebody who opens his doors every day and stands there and says, ‘Here I am,’ said Patchen in April. “I’m an easy target.”
He said he has helped people recover at least 40 bikes since he opened his shop and that he has no desire to aid in bike theft. However, he did admit that he had purchased a frame and fork from a former employee and friend who burned him
“My mistake was to not run it, because it was from a friend,” Patchen said in April.
He also blamed the police process for failing to connect reports of stolen bikes to those reported using the Leadsonine system.
BPA‘s store at 3rd and Battery is still open for business.