Colorado Cyclists Traced a Ring of Bike Thieves Down to JUárez, Mexico Using Facebook

Colorado Cyclists Traced a Ring of Bike Thieves Down to JUárez, Mexico Using Facebook

A ring of thieves in Colorado has been indicted in a bicycle burglary ring that spanned state lines and international borders and amounted to nearly $US1 million ($2 million) in value of stolen goods and property damage. The thieves targeted mountain bikes throughout Colorado’s Front Range, transported the bikes to the Texas border and finally sent them across to be sold in Juárez, Mexico.

The stolen bikes are worth nearly $US1 million in all, and the online registry Bike Index has tracked these on Facebook since February 2021. The site’s volunteers catalogued more than 1,000 bikes that may have been part of the case, which the attorney general dubbed Operation Vicious Cycle and which KDVR reported on:

Bike Index created a database for riders to identify the bicycles and confirm that they were part of these thefts, but the work went beyond cataloguing. The site’s volunteers and the cyclist community in Colorado uncovered where many of the bikes went, a shop in Juárez called Alexander’s Bikes.

The report from Bike Index is exhaustive and worth a read.

It details the case, the frequency of the thefts, and the efficiency of the operation. It also redirects to the attorney general’s statement that details the intricate thefts, which involved stolen cars to transport the bikes:

After planning a burglary over Facebook Messenger, the individuals allegedly operated in groups of up to four to steal either a box truck or van and ram it into the front doors or windows of a bicycle shop, or they would break the front windows with large landscaping rocks or other tools. Defendants then stole high-end mountain bikes — bypassing other types of merchandise and equipment — and transferred the stolen goods to another individual for suspected transport out of the country before abandoning the vehicle used in the burglary and fleeing in a second stolen vehicle.

Bicycles stolen in Denver would show up on Alexander’s Bikes within two weeks or so, per Bike Index, and would then be sold in Mexico. The shop would send the bikes throughout the country, rather than just sell them in Juárez.

And we’re talking high-end mountain bikes that cost around $US4,000-5,000 (around $7,000)on the used market in the U.S. but were being sold for slightly less than their reported worth. The shop’s Facebook page is region locked, which made tracking the stolen bikes that much harder for bikes owners in the U.S.

Alexander’s Bikes had advertised on Facebook since 2019, garnering good reviews and supporters in Mexico. Facebook users even posted questions about the shop’s trustworthiness and people would reply, vouching for the store.

I imagine these were buyers who’d bought the stolen bikes — unknowingly, I hope — and had little reason to suspect the bikes came from an international crime operation.

Bike Index brought the case to Facebook, but the tech company was unhelpful:

[…]Facebook’s process for flagging sellers like this is effectively worthless. We know, we tried, we flagged the seller – nothing happened. Because the only applicable “report this page” options are for “click for trademark infringement” or “Unauthorised sales”. And, all you can do is click buttons – there’s no ability to send in any information to back up the report. There is no button to click where you can explain to anybody at FB “this is a repeat seller of bikes stolen in Colorado, and here’s our proof, and here’s our contact info.” etc. It is almost as if their system for reporting stolen goods is designed not to work.

I’m not surprised Facebook didn’t do anything to help, but after the release of the Bike Index report, users in Mexico started posting about the store selling stolen bikes and bike shops like Mexico City’s Bike Den are spreading the word, using the tag #nocompresrobado, roughly “don’t buy stolen.”