Bike Index Uncovers International Bike Theft & Sale Operation

Jan 5, 2022 at 15:36
by Alicia Leggett  

In early 2021, users of the bike registry Bike Index alerted the website that a seller based in Juarez, Mexico, appeared to be selling large numbers of bikes that matched many of those stolen in Colorado. The tips catalyzed a special data compilation project that took place throughout 2021, has indexed more than 1000 suspicious bikes, and has matched several victims of bike theft with their bikes.

To start out, Bike Index is a nonprofit organization that has created an online database of bikes, stolen and not, that can be used to identify and recover stolen bikes. The organization also collects information about the bicycle black market, so that the more bikes are recovered, the more the organization understands how to efficiently identify stolen bikes in the future.

Over the next several months, Bike Index watched and documented as Alexander's Bikes posted bike after bike for sale on its Facebook page, which was geo-restricted and only viewable from Mexico or using a Mexico VPN.

Bike Index tediously combed through theft reports on both Bike Index and in Colorado cycling Facebook groups. In the first batch of 43 bikes that it looked at, Bike Index was able to match 10 with owners who'd had their bikes stolen, verifying the matches using identifying markings that couldn't be attributed to chance. That was enough for Bike Index to keep going. All in all, Bike Index documented 1077 bike listings with more than 15,000 screenshots.

In this instance, the owner had a photo of a rim dent that they could match up with the photos in the listing.

Now, all those bikes are indexed in an exhaustive spreadsheet. If you or someone you know has had a bike stolen in Colorado since roughly 2019, that spreadsheet would be a good place to look. Read Bike Index's report for more information about using the database and working with authorities to recover the bikes.

While Bike Index was working to compile screenshots of bike listings, Colorado's Attorney General Phil Weiser was working on an anti-theft operation of his own called Operation Vicious Cycle. In November 2021, Weiser charged eight men with 227 counts related to 29 bike shop burglaries in which they stole about $985,000 in high-end mountain bikes, according to a press release.

The thieves had a system: they would steal either a box truck or a van, ram it into the front windows of a bike shop or otherwise break in using heavy landscaping rocks, and then specifically target mountain bikes. In one instance, they stole $90,000 worth of bikes in under five minutes. Some shops were hit multiple times. One was robbed four times over several months.

The press release goes on to suggest that the Attorney General believes the group worked with "fences" who sold the stolen bikes for them - such as Alexander's Bikes - and that it's likely the stolen goods may have been moved into Mexico.

The specific bikes stolen have not been publicly listed, but Bike Index has cross-referenced its list with the shops targeted, and some of the bikes listed on the Alexander's Bikes Facebook page still had stickers from some of the shops named in Operation Vicious Cycle.

The details had some tells.

Alexander's Bikes is notable in part because of the way it connected two very different demographics - the people who had their bikes stolen in Colorado and the people who were looking to buy bikes in Mexico. It's quite unlikely that someone looking for their next ride in Mexico would be keeping tabs on the bikes stolen in Colorado, and it's unlikely that someone who had a bike stolen in Colorado would stumble upon the geo-restricted Facebook page.

Also fascinating is that the bikes for sale by Alexander's Bikes came from all over Colorado and were stolen using a wide variety of tactics. The lack of specificity points to Alexander's Bikes having a multitude of thieves and groups stealing bikes, not just one main source - thus, the thieves apprehended by Operation Vicious Cycle are highly unlikely to have been the only ones, though they're likely to have been at least somewhat involved. Other large burglaries have been linked to Alexander's Bikes, too, including the Guerilla Gravity headquarters break-in in November. Guerilla Gravity has identified at least two of the bikes stolen from its showroom in the Alexander's Bikes listings.

The Bike Index investigation also highlighted how quickly bikes can make their ways into the black market - one example that Bike Index shared was a Zerode Katipo that was stolen in late August and appeared for sale in early September, taking just over two weeks to make its way south and onto Facebook.

This Zerode made it from Denver to Juarez in just over two weeks.

The vast number of stolen bikes that were listed by Alexander's Bikes points to the existence of bike theft operations that are larger and more profitable than was previously understood, but also to the possibility that once those operations are cracked, the bikes are recoverable.

The investigation also quantified the black market in a way that hadn't been done before, according to Bike Index. Most of the bikes for sale listed in the $4000 to $5000 USD range. For the number of bikes that were likely sold, even without knowing Alexander's Bikes' overhead costs, that's likely a huge profit margin.

As of right now, it appears that Alexander's Bikes has been fully shut down, and there's a fair chance that it has to do with the Colorado Attorney General's investigation or with the amount of publicity this story has received in the last few weeks. Alexander Espinosa Perez, who ran Alexander's Bikes, denied any involvement with bike trafficking and the sale of stolen goods and promised to work with US and Mexican authorities against bike theft, but he immediately deleted the shop's Facebook and TikTok pages and wiped its Instagram page clean of all content.

It's unclear where Perez is now or whether he'll be able to continue selling bikes, but authorities now definitively have more information about large-scale bike theft and resale than ever. No doubt, when the next operation of this type crops up in the future, there will be some knowledge to be taken from this, and authorities might know just where to look.


112 Comments

  • 401 2
 You'd think that in Mexico they'd want bikes that could fit a water bottle.
  • 40 1
 Omg too soon
  • 25 0
 And in frame storage must be #2 on the spec sheet
  • 6 5
 who needs water bottles when you can have a sick hip pack with a bladder in it
  • 227 2
 Holy shit. Nice work and f*ck (bike) thieves.
  • 4 15
flag SvenNorske (Jan 6, 2022 at 9:25) (Below Threshold)
 Nice work? Will the bikes get returned to the owners? Will the head guy actually get imprisonment? Will the thieves actually get jail time, or will it be 30 days and out per the usual for theft in the US. Status quo will reign.
  • 13 0
 Yup. I just skimmed the article and didn't notice mention that BikeIndex takes donations. If any group is deserving of rider's support, this is it!
  • 5 0
 @Bike-Bros: they def take donation :

bikeindex.org/why-donate
  • 92 0
 If anybody has some info about his stolen bikes i can help with the legal part to make a bigger effort against and trying to get them back.
  • 57 0
 Being semi-local to him and having considered purchasing a bike from him (fortunately never did), and in the middle of the process of registering a motorcycle. I was noticing there’s a big loop hole in the system to demonstrate a bicycle ownership. You pay the same amount for a high end bicycle vs a motorcycle or car, yet you can take the bicycle to Mexico without customs even taking a look.

Hope the bikes get back to the rightful owners. Bike theft sucks!
  • 7 0
 this customs loophole for bikes is a worldwide thing...mostly...just get some dirt on the tires and voila..
  • 8 0
 If you read the article there are individual links that have the charges listed for the caught thieves. I clicked on the last guy and he was charged with 30 plus crimes. It also stated he owned a Ford F350 box van and had crossed into Mexico 168 times in 12 months!
  • 8 0
 @Lundeee: bikes for coke ! By buying and riding high end bikes we are supporting the drug trade . Bikes - just say no ...
  • 2 0
 @Lagr1980:
Here You can take a bike per person every time you cross the border, whether new or used, Huffy or Santacruz
  • 59 8
 What I learned in the above = ride the hell outta your bikes so they have one of a kind dents....and don't ride carbon = life hack.
  • 54 3
 Bad hombres for sure.
  • 51 1
 YOU BOYS LIKE MEXICO!!!
  • 13 0
 these snozzberries taste like snozzberries
  • 10 0
 I can't pull over any further!
  • 4 0
 Who wants a mustache ride?
  • 5 1
 meow what is so damn funny?
  • 6 0
 Not so funny meow, is it?
  • 45 0
 We had 2 bikes stolen in January 2020, one ended up on ebay 3 weeks later. I had proof of the bike being mine from unique custom fitted parts and frame numbers. Neither the Police in Scotland, England (where the bike was sold (ebay seller: donnbuckle_63) or Ebay did anything to stop the sale, block the seller or seize the bike back. I even managed to get the sellers address for them not to mention linked bank accounts etc. Seems that selling stolen bikes in the UK doesn't carry any penalty in the UK and Ebay couldn't give a shit either.
  • 14 0
 Wtf fuck ebay
  • 7 1
 I live in California and the authorities don't investigate any theft. They basically say, "Hope you have insurance. Good luck with that." Blah, blah.
  • 6 0
 @donpinpon29: Regarding Ebay, there should be red flags for sellers like this, looking at the guys history at the time of the theft, he was selling more bikes and parts than CRC.
  • 6 0
 But the item & insist on paying cash , then fill the b@st@rd in , on collection..!
  • 7 0
 @tacklingdummy: Reminds me of the Dude, " They got us working in shifts"
  • 46 0
 I see my Scout in there that was stolen in July 2021. Frown
  • 4 0
 Wow, seriously?
  • 6 0
 @spacebetweentrees: sounds like it's time for a road trip!
  • 9 0
 @spacebetweentrees: sorry, man. That would make my blood boil.
  • 34 12
 Good thing Bike Index blew the story up before the authorities could investigate and try to recover some of the bikes. Jeez
  • 42 0
 Given the jurisdictional issues across state borders let alone international border, its unlikely they would have ever been able to get anything back. Unless they enlisted the help of the Mexican government....which is pretty unlikely given the relatively small $$ we are talking when they are wrapped up in significantly larger issues. This is still good to understand how some of this is working so they can at least try and mitigate it going forward. And hopefully this will help folks with insurance claims.
  • 10 0
 "As of right now, it appears that Alexander's Bikes has been fully shut down, and there's a fair chance that it has to do with the Colorado Attorney General's investigation or with the amount of publicity this story has received in the last few weeks."

If the bikes are or in some cases "were" in Mexico It's not like that was going to be a quick and easy recovery process...
  • 15 0
 @stiingya: Probably shut down because whatever cartel was running that operation came and paid them a visit.
  • 2 0
 @erbsforlife1: my friend- u are not wrong.
  • 4 0
 @mtnbykr05: bike index provided info and waited till they had arrested the 8 guys stealing the bikes in the US. Sounds like they tried to get the info to the Mexican police too but couldn't get anyone to work with them. You can read all the details here bikeindex.org/news/closing-the-loop-a-deep-dive-on-a-facebook-reseller-of-bikes-stolen-in
  • 1 0
 @chize: ok great job by them then
  • 19 0
 Looks like the makings of a new Narcos season. Yes!!!!!
  • 22 0
 narcos - pit viper edition yiewwwwww
  • 6 0
 Bikeos
  • 72 0
 Gnarcos
  • 9 0
 Norcos: Mexico
  • 1 0
 @LemonadeMoney: there it is!!
  • 12 0
 Oh yeah, as a Mexican resident, if your bike gets stolen in the US, check marketplace in Mexico.
  • 11 1
 “These were the mistakes the bicycle thieves made that led to them being identified”. -Pinkbike

“Thanks for publishing those tips, I’ll avoid making the same mistakes.” -Other bicycle thieves
  • 9 1
 Next article...."What have we learned from Alexander's Bikes' mistakes and how to avoid them."
  • 2 0
 Exactly my sentiments after reading this. I hope they kept some of their secrets...
  • 11 0
 someone stole my patrol from 2nd story apartment in LA in 2018. wonder if its in juarez?
  • 2 0
 it's definitely in Juarez
  • 8 1
 I know it might be far fetched but there are sellers in the Philippines importing forks and selling them for less than half the retail price, they are all brand new factory 36's without a box just the fork selling for around $500 converted

its just suspicious especially after all the break ins in bike shops last year
  • 6 0
 Time to let Fox know, and maybe also Bike Index!
  • 4 0
 I bought a set of forks once from a local (Australian) online retailer that turned up with the serial number ground off the crown. They were new with uncut steerer and no star nut, and no crown race had even been fitted, came in a plastic bag including un-fitted parts like the through axle, hose guide etc.
When I contacted the seller with a 'WTF, please explain", the answer was that they were grey-market imports, on-sold from a bike manufacturer that was buying more OEM build kits than they ever intended to build bikes, and 'parted out'. They weren't stolen, but the serial was ground off to prevent them being traced back to the OEM breaking their supplier contract with Fox.
[edit - this was in 2009, when stock was bountiful and the story was a bit more plausible]
  • 7 0
 Massive generalisation and assumption, but the Philippines is pretty close to Taiwan, Vietnam and China - where all the bikes get made. OE wholesale prices on forks are lower than you might think, so I suspect you're seeing stock that's been sneakily diverted from the OE supply chain rather than actually stolen.
  • 1 0
 @chakaping: it’s still probably worth notifying Fox just in case it’s dodgy.
  • 1 0
 @chakaping: Could be the case. In between genuine and counterfeit there's lots of overseas manufacturing that goes out the back door, stolen and otherwise. Often called the Third or Ghost shift.
  • 1 0
 @chakaping: considering there has been incidents in the past where stolen bikes from north america surfaces in in the philippines, its not really impossible especially now that its known to be an international operation. a lot of these sellers import items from NA btw thats what they told me the last time I inquired
  • 5 0
 A year ago a ladies powder blue Rocky Mountain Slayer SXC similar in color to that Zerode photo at the bottom was making its way around southern ontario. I saw it change hands thru facebook marketplace a half dozen times across five cities within an hour of Toronto, and different owners none of who kept it for more than a couple days and all claimed to have owned it for "years".
  • 8 0
 Put random custom colors and parts on your bike so you can say on reasonable grounds the bike on kijiji is your.
  • 5 1
 The chop shops in vancouver know to frankenstien the bikes right away.... within days of theft components and parts seem to be swappped on and off bikes around van... But I do agree, your best bet is to Customize yo shit!
  • 2 0
 @Acid11: I remember reading an article a while back about a ring in Vancouver that would strip the bikes and ditch the frame, selling only the parts, the least traceable items. They would divide all of the parts up by type, forks, wheels, etc., and knew what they were too. Total system that would have your bike stripped within hours and never find them again.
  • 78 0
 Heres a bit of a story...

I had a very custom Specialized Pitch. It was powder coated white with repainted & custom tuned white 36s and full XT, custom built wheels with Hope hubs etc - I rode 2 Megavalanches on it and loved it.

I'd been planning a trip from London (UK) to Moab and the day before the bike was thieved from my office - from INSIDE the building.

I went to Moab anyway and ended up buying an Ex-demo Yeti, which had scratched cranks, so I look on ebay and what do I see... the XT Touring cranks from my Pitch... then the brakes, then the seatpost... etc

A friend in London had unwittingly bought a stolen Brompton which was recovered by a special Police team that dealt in bikes. My girlfriend got in touch with them and asked if I could ID all the parts very specifically... FOUR pages later they got the dude's address and stormed his apartment... he was a courier by day and a bike fence by night.

It took the cops 6 months to recover all the parts from ebay buyers but I collected my whole bike in one big evidence bag full of parts, rebuilt the bike and rode it for years later.

www.pinkbike.com/photo/14966768
  • 1 0
 @mtnbykr05: I remember a story about a guy stealing bikes, parting them out, and listing the parts here on the buy and sell...
  • 3 0
 @jasonwd: bloody brilliant - nice work in recovering everything & eventually reassembling your rig again!
  • 2 0
 @mtnbykr05: Lots of riders/bikes + lots of D bags = a bad situation
  • 5 0
 @lumpy873: One of the techs from my state health IT department got caught parting out decommissioned PCs and servers and selling them on eBay. He forgot to wipe one of the hard drives and the PC booted to to the department standard image login screen. Lost his job, was convicted and jailed. Turned up a decade later as the neighbour of my rental property where we're having some building works done, and he was agitating about the fence being unsafe and about to fall over (it wasn't, but our builder said it looked like someone had been trying to push it over) and coincidentally his dog could get out so he would like us to foot the bill for a new fence. Strangely enough he went quiet about all that when he realised I remembered him.
  • 1 0
 @jasonwd: I’m rebuilding one of my bikes at the moment, it is probably time to record the serial number of any parts that have a serial number...
  • 2 0
 @lewiscraik: We should all record the serial numbers of our forks, but no, of course I haven't Big Grin
  • 2 0
 @jcwmtb: cheers... that is about 1/8 the story. It's a good un but the cops did all the work, I was amazed.
  • 4 0
 I used to wonder why, in the Old West, horse thievery was considered such a heinous crime, bad enough that the perpetrators would often be strung up without trial (or so Hollywood tells me). I mean, no one died, right? What's the big deal?

I think there's some similar psychology at work here...something about having your trusty mode of transportation, that carries you to work and play, that you put a lot of love and attention into taken from you so flippantly just boils the blood.
  • 5 0
 "Facebook page, which was geo-restricted and only viewable from Mexico or using a Mexico VPN."

Why does Facebook have geo-restricted options for accessing their webpage? That is not helping the problem.
  • 12 9
 Amazing that we think country that let one of the most dangerous criminals in the world walk out of prison twice would give two shits about stolen bikes is a joke. When you let criminals run a country this is the result. The only thing more moronic than this is thinking a wall would stop this.
  • 36 8
 Well that's a bit rude. You've only just stopped having a criminal run your own country.
  • 12 8
 @chakaping: I thought we still did...just changed hands
  • 10 0
 @chakaping: Yes we removed that one criminal, but the gangs in Mexico are worse than any really bad president ever could be. They run the country and anyone that has tried to stop that has been terminated. Speaking of criminals, how is Prince Andrew the pedo doing?
  • 4 0
 @Alsippi: I just dropped him a line to ask for you, he said "no sweat mate".
  • 3 0
 @chakaping: are "we" really in any position to throw stones here?
  • 3 0
 This exact same group was hitting the Albuquerque / Santa Fe area 2015-2017 - including stealing my bike and posting it on the Alexander's Bike Facebook page out of Juarez, MX.

Another friend had their house broken into and entire stable stolen, a large bike shop was hit (lots of bikes stolen), and countless others in ABQ as well. They didn't even try to be inconspicuous and mix and match parts from other bikes, so our bikes were easy to spot.

A coordinated effort to surveil and capture a few of the street-level guys was led by my good friend (mountain biker who had his home broken into) and law enforcement.

Unfortunately looks like they went back to it - or - just passed the torch to others and expanded operations up the road.
  • 2 0
 Happens so often here. Unfortunately a number of the good riding places where I lived (well, still kinda do, I am away for work but the family still live there) you have to transit through what myself and a mates refer to as "Methhaven". All you need is for some of these lowlifes spot you transiting through while they are driving so they will attempt to follow you as close as they can and then they start scheming. Thankfully, I have a place where I can transit through and then pop out 3 suburbs away and they cant follow me because they dont hold restricted access id cards.

The unfortunate people who they do manage to succeed in nabbing their bikes generally see them pop up on marketplace 6-12 months later with either mismatched parts (ie ones that dont fit the bike, like a set of low end RS forks on a DH rig etc) and usually interstate and for a stupidly low price and they ask for bank transfer upfront before neglecting to send or even have the bike in their possession!

All bike thieves should be tied naked to a post and have their testicles whipped with a frayed and rusty shifter cable and sprayed with disinfectant to avoid infections (sorry AXS users, you guys will just have to club them with your seatpost and saddle)
  • 4 1
 I was told a good tip from police concerning MX bikes on trailers etc.. if you think you're being followed. Get to a round'a'bout (not sure if you have them over there but)then drive around the round a bout again an again until the follower figures it out an leaves..
  • 8 0
 @nojzilla: Or they puke
  • 1 1
 @nojzilla: haha yes we have round abouts here......our national capitol is one big one lol. What you guys have in the UK we pretty much have here, being a colonial national and all, but please, for heavens sake, keep your Pikeys over there, I f'n 'ate Pikeys........lol
  • 2 0
 So here's what you do with your bike(s) to be able to identify them in the event they do get stolen:

- put a recognizable sticker somewhere that isn't easily seen (like under the top tube, or underside of the bars)
- document/photograph your bike every time you upgrade or replace a part
- document/photograph scrapes/dents/damage that is unique to your bike
- post photos of your bike to social media (it could be argued that this draws attention to your bike but it could also prove later on that the bike was in your possession before it got stolen so this one's up to you)
- of course write down the serial number of your bike and keep proof of purchase info for the rig itself
- write down your contact info on a piece of paper, roll it up, and put it inside your handlebars (if your bike gets recovered you can tell the authorities to check the bars for your info and they'd be pretty hard-pressed to argue that the bike isn't yours)

Feel free to reply with other tips and tricks you have for stolen bike recovery, it's a sh*t feeling and I wouldn't wish it on people who spend more money on bikes than anything else (i was lucky my stolen bike was just my crappy commuter)
  • 1 0
 I had a morewood shova stolen from cymcarn trail centre campsite 2011 & was tipped off that morning ,it was stashed on a housing estate nearby , phoned the feds & they said do not go to that house & were to busy to go then selfs, 1 day later they watched cctv & it was the local scumbag but the bike was gone..!45 bikes where stolen that year
  • 2 0
 probably should a called the police instead of the feds then
  • 1 0
 In vienna the same shit happens… since a long time. They go to the basement, collect the bikes and sell them in eastern europe. I see many suspicious bikes in the facebook groups. They stolen nearly 6000 eur bikes from me last year, the police did nothing, just make a report. Fortunately the insurance covered my lost, but i cannot use the basement anymore, and i have space just one bike in the flat (mountain biking rip).

I put a door ring with camera to the door, but months later they reported me, it is against the personal rights. So, i cannot really protect myself, just hope, nobody will break into the flat too. I would be happy, if somebody put cameras to the corridor. I feel more safe our house.
  • 4 0
 welp, found my buddy's vitus that got stolen in denver last summer
  • 2 1
 The authorities got involved when they noticed a number of Ibis, Yeti and Evil bikes being transported across the borders. The suspects are being charged with smuggling crack....
  • 3 0
 Obviously Trumps fault. he built a wall perfect for hiding bikes behind. a paywall if you like
  • 2 0
 It's naïve to think that there are not currently dozens of similar fence operations in existence run my organized crime syndicates throughout the world
  • 2 0
 I read a very interesting book called " the coyotes bicycle" about how truckloads of bikes are smuggled into Mexico then used to help aliens pedal into 'Murica. Fascinating.
  • 3 0
 Shocking. Is anyone really surprised?
  • 1 0
 Not surprised at all really, I kinda figured something like this would be the case since high end, even some one-off bikes are seemingly just vanishing. Mexico just seems like the most logical place to do this sort of thing too.
  • 2 0
 Was reading through the comments, waiting for someone to politicize this.
And I’m outta here..
  • 3 1
 Early front runner for worst comment of the year!
  • 3 0
 Cobra Kai!
  • 2 0
 Bicycle traffic.... Cartel Mexico gang..... Omg.....
  • 4 2
 The Syndicate
  • 1 0
 Thanks for posting this PB!
  • 1 0
 Looks like their FB and Insta are down... maybe something is happening?
  • 1 0
 Its Fb is on again, but no posts.
  • 1 0
 many sellers in Mexico with FB pages, MTB MAFIA
  • 1 0
 You spelled Guerrilla wrong.
  • 1 0
 Nice place that Juarez so many other nice things happen there as well
  • 1 1
 I get all my bikes from Alexander's website! Great deals.
  • 3 3
 Hell yaa bois!!
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