Crime ring busted, accused of stealing $1 million in bicycles during pandemic

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DENVER (KDVR) — A grand jury has indicted eight people in a suspected criminal ring operating on the Front Range involving high-end bicycles. 

Attorney General Phil Weiser charged eight individuals:

  • Kevin Acosta-Larkin,
  • Austin Butler,
  • Gerald Garcia,
  • Maurice Leday,
  • Gregory Melina,
  • Salvador Mena-Barreno,
  • Jason Quijada,
  • and Adrian Rocha-Chairez. 

They are facing a combined 227 counts ranging from theft to burglary. They are accused of 29 bike shop burglaries and 22 auto thefts between December 2019 and June 2020.

According to the indictment, the group planned the crimes using Facebook Messenger and often stole box trucks to smash windows of bicycle shops. It goes on to allege the stolen bikes would then be sold to other criminals out of state and possibly in Mexico. 

In total, the group is accused of stealing $985,000 worth of bicycles, $258,000 worth of vehicles and causing $231,837 worth of property damage to vehicles and businesses. 

“A million dollars isn’t even scratching the surface in my opinion. I would guess there’s a lot more that’s happened beyond that we’ve never even gotten to the bottom of,” Justin Mattison told FOX31. 

Thieves steal $50K in bikes from Littleton shop

Mattison owns The Bikery at the Breckenridge Brewery in Littleton. His shop is one of the victims named in the indictment after it was hit on April 25, 2020. 

“Had just moved bikes in that night and sure enough, that night we got nailed,” Mattison said. 

He said he watched the whole thing from security cameras inside his store. 

“I’m laying next to my wife and I’m like, it’s happening. We’re being robbed now. And I still get goosebumps to this day,” he said. 

According to the indictment, the thieves first stole a U-Haul box truck then drove to The Bikery, where they cut the locks to the shop’s door. It goes on to say the defendants stole 13 bicycles worth $49,499.87.

“As he took off, a lot of our bikes fell out in the parking lot, so we were able to recoup quite a few of them. But a few remained in the truck,” Mattison said. 

He said the rest were recovered after the suspect crashed the truck in Denver. However, according to Mattison, the timing of the crime made it especially difficult for his small business. 

“We had to claim insurance basically on everything,” he said. “It’s not like when we have a bike stolen that we get to recoup our profit. We just get what we paid back. So that whole loss of profit is gone.”

The bicycle industry boomed in popularity during the pandemic. Many shops, including The Bikery, were sometimes unable to keep enough bicycles in stock to meet demand due to supply chain issues.

“So it’s not like we can just say, OK, great, now we’ve got money to go buy new bikes. Well, now there’s no new bikes,” he said. 

High-end bikes can range anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 or more. 

“As far as bikes go, it’s always been thought of as like a recreation, but for a lot of people in the state of Colorado, it’s their livelihood, it’s their passion, it’s what makes them who they are. And when somebody steals that away from them, it sucks,” Mattison said. 

According to Boulder Police Chief Maris Harold, the City of Boulder alone sees more than $1 million in bicycle thefts each year.

“We just want this to stop. And to think that maybe we’re the ones to help further that along is huge,” Mattison said. 

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