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SPD officer poses as bike buyer, busts downtown bike theft ring

UPDATE: SPD has now posted photos of the bikes.

Click to see all the photos
Click to see all the photos

This is great. I sure hope you reported your stolen bike, because the police may have just recovered it.

More efforts like this could make stealing bikes to make quick cash via Craigslist a little less appealing. Kudos to whoever sent the tip to police, and big kudos to SPD for taking it seriously and following through.

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Details from SPD:

A tip on Twitter led Seattle police to uncover a surreptitious showroom of stolen bicycles Tuesday evening in downtown Seattle.

Major Crimes Taskforce detectives began investigating a suspicious Craigslst seller earlier this week after receiving a lead through the department’s Twitter account, @SeattlePD, that a man was selling high-end bikes at deep discounts.

After detectives found the seller had at least 10 bikes posted online, an undercover detective, posing as an interested buyer, set up a meeting with the suspect.

The detective met the man around 6 PM Tuesday at 3rd Avenue and Stewart St, where the suspect showed off one of his bikes. The detective told the man the bike wasn’t quite what he was looking for and asked if he had anything else. It just so happened the suspect had a  partner-in-crime waiting right across the street with a second bike.

After showing off the second bicycle, the suspects brought the detective down to a nearby storage facility, where they were storing dozens of suspected stolen bikes.

The detective picked one out, paid $200 for it and went to check the bike’s serial number, which quickly showed it had been reported stolen. Police arrested the two suspects and got permission to search the storage unit, where they recovered a total of 27 bikes—many of them high-end—as well as 30 or so expensive bike rims.

Police are now working with prosecutors on the case and are still sorting through all the recovered bicycles to attempt to locate their rightful owners.

As a reminder, you can list your stolen bike on BikeIndex via the Seattle Bike Blog Bike Submission page. People can then find your bike listing when they search the serial number or bike description.

You should also report all bike thefts to the police. In Seattle, call the SPD non-emergency number and file a report with an officer: (206) 625-5011 (if the thief is still in the area, call 911). If your bike has a monetary value less than $500, you can file an SPD report online.

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14 responses to “SPD officer poses as bike buyer, busts downtown bike theft ring”

  1. Cheif

    Kudos to SPD for managing to do something right two months running. That is a good amount of stolen equipment. As a “high end” bike user I’m curious as to how these thieves got their hands on so many “high end” bikes. Strong arm robbery? Were they stolen out of garages? Off buses? Not locked up properly in the first place?

    1. rob

      fwiw, west seattle blog has posts pretty frequently about bikes being stolen from parking garages/secure areas in condo/apartment buildings. when i lived in an apartment building in belltown we had a big problem with people sneaking into the parking garage behind cars entering the garage. targeting places like that probably nets thieves plenty of nicer bikes.

      my neighbors lost theirs along with a bunch of other stuff to someone who broke a hole through the back wall of their garage. i have my bikes chained together in my garage so they would be that much harder to move if someone does break in there.

  2. Augsburg

    That’s great they caught these guys. Almost every day, I walk up and down Pike St. between 6th Ave and Boren and frequently I see “street/homeless” types pushing (not riding) bikes up the Pike St. hill. It sure looked like they were taking their latest pilfer to someone.

  3. GCWilliams

    Did SPD mention if they were going to post a list of the stolen bikes somewhere?

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I believe standard practice is for them to search their police reports and contact people through that. But since the bikes are evidence, they may also be help pending charges, etc.

      If they don’t find the owners, the bikes should eventually trickle down to the bike warehouse, where SPD may tweet about the unclaimed bikes via @getyourbikeback

  4. anna

    Fingers crossed that our bike is on this list. It was stolen during the Superbowl (cold) and was on Craigslist the NEXT day. We tried to meet the seller multiple times and he wouldn’t meet us. He did say the meet would take place on 3rd/Virginia.

    He had 23 bikes listed on CL in 5 days!

    I had multiple conversations with the East Precinct/2 different depts and asked them to get a warrant but they wouldn’t b/c I hadn’t confirmed the serial #. (he wouldn’t meet us!)

    They ran the guy’s # and said a similar report was linked to it, same name but still…no action. Glad they busted him! Hoping our bike is there or yours is….

    A CD resident

    1. Do me a favor and drop me an email – bryan at bikeindex dot org – I’d like to check into this seller and see if he’s one of the guys already on our watchlist or not. Thanks.

      1. Anna

        I’m headed down to see if my bike is in evidence. It WAS the same guy from Craigslist… so happy he’s busted. They found A LOT of bikes. I’ll be in touch. Anna

  5. Dirk

    I hope that they busted the crack heads I re-stole a Surly Cross Check from.

    I met three tweakers on James, between 2nd and 3rd selling a bike way under value. Searched the bike blog, saw it had been reported stole, contacted the owner, got the serial number before meeting them then called the cops when I was there. Subsequent return of the woman’s bike felt pretty good, but was super bummed after I gave the detective my statement (in which I felt I handed him the case) and continued to see the bikes posted.

    It took all my willpower not to go back and get the rest that were stolen, but if these were the guys who were busted, it makes me feel pretty good.

    Was the bike the investigator purchased a Cannondale Quick CX?

  6. I’m trying to help identify the owner of the white Rodriguez in the photos linked to this post. Does anyone have an ‘in’ with the police evidence dept.? I’m not sure that I’m emailing the right people there.

  7. […] More posers please: SPD officer acts like bike buyer for stolen bikes and busts a theft ring. […]

  8. salmoncity

    We have had related incidents in downtown Kirkland in the last couple months. The suspect enters through garage entrance doors. He identifies a bike and quickly cuts the lock with a heavy bolt cutter then walks out of the building with the item. We think he boards a bus or has a ride nearby.

    He is good at blending in – wearing decent clothes/shoes – looking like a resident. Kind of looks like a grown up skateboarder. He prowls the garage levels looking for things of value then exits via a street level door.

    Suspect Profile
    · White male
    · Fair skin
    · 25-35 years old
    · Stocky build
    · 5’7” – 5’9”
    · 165-185 lbs
    · Reddish brown hair
    · Shoulder length hair
    · No facial hair
    · Wears layers of clothes/jackets
    · Carries multiple soft canvas style bags
    · Wears backpack

    I have a color photo of this individual from our security camera.

    Please contact me for more details and photo information. If you need to contact the Kirkland police call the non-emergency business line at Norcom (dispatch) 425-577-5656 and refer to police report #15-4520


  9. […] Seattle Police have made their second big bike theft bust in a month. […]

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