Taking place across six Southern California counties, it almost seemed inspired by the movies. A high-end theft ring targeted specific items, posed as interested buyers to get crucial information, and then pulled numerous snatch and grab jobs often in broad daylight. It wasn’t cars or high-end electronics these thieves were after, it was high-end bicycles.
According to L.A. County Sheriff’s investigators more than 40 high-end road bikes and twice as many wheels were seized by the Major Crimes Unit, this past May, after a month-long residential burglary investigation ended in the arrests of three men.
Authorities says that those three men, who include Julian Herrera, 23; his brother Jaime Herrera, 21; and 24-year-old Alberto Mejia, targeted bicycle enthusiasts throughout Southern California, and found many of their targets on Craigslist.
Investigators said that the suspects would contact those listing high-end bikes by using fictitious email accounts and fictitious names to gather information – including addresses. The suspects would then burglarize the bike owner’s home to steal the bike – often times doing so while the owner was asleep.
A bike shop is also being investigated, as the suspects admitted to stealing more than 100 bikes, stripping these of parts and then selling the lot to the owner. According to KABC, the local ABC News affiliate, the shop was located on Venice Blvd. At press time the shop owner was cooperating with investigators and had not been arrested.
And while the suspects are being held on $1million bond each, this time of theft is only growing in California. “This is a super hot topic, no pun intended,” Jen Klausner of the LA Bicycle Coalition told BikeRadar. “I know a number of riders from local clubs who have been victims of some very bold thefts lately.”
These include so-called “silent thefts” she added, where bikes are stolen from a back room or garage while the victim is home. “One guy woke up to someone trying to drill into his garage lock from the outside,” Klausner said.
Worse still, while this one ring showed that the thieves have gone digital, some technology could actually be helping bike owners share their information with thieves. “These seem to be thieves who know exactly what they are going after, and I suspect they are using social media and ride-tracking technology – GPS, Strava – to identify their victims,” added Klausne. “If you have expensive bikes and track your training rides, be careful that you’re not leading tech-savvy thieves’ right to your home address.”