by Bryan Hance
Topics: Bike Theft
Topics: Bike Theft
In a hurry? Here's the synopsis if you're pressed for time:
- In early 2021 several people tipped Bike Index off to a Facebook seller in Mexico that appeared to be selling bikes stolen from Colorado
- Bike Index confirmed there were many stolen bikes in that seller's sales in our initial examination - but we wanted more confirmation
- We then enlisted the help of the Colorado cycling community and confirmed even more stolen bike matches
- Since February 2021, Bike Index has been capturing a record of all the seller's listed bikes - screenshots, prices, descriptions, etc.
- We have spoken to many victims already, but there are likely many more victims that we haven't spoken to yet whose stolen bikes are in this archive
- We are publishing this seller's archive of bikes here, so other theft victims can look through these bikes - and to highlight the problem re: stolen bikes being moved out of state and fenced on Facebook
- We are publishing this archive on the heels of the Colorado AG's announcement about 'Operation Vicious Cycle', which hinted at bikes from Colorado being fenced in Mexico - but did not go into any detail re: that
- The Google doc manifest - with link to stolen bike images - is here but please consider reading this article to learn how to navigate and search it
Want the long version? Read on.
In early 2021, several people tipped us off to a Facebook seller in Juarez, Mexico who appeared to be selling bikes stolen from Colorado. Our first examination noted that:
In short order we found enough red flags - and tactics we had seen with other suspect sellers - that it piqued our interest and we spun this off as a special project to look closer, compile data, and learn what we could about this market.
Just in case it's your first time here - some basics about Bike Index:
Who we are: We're BIke Index! We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit that registers, recovers, and protects bikes all over the world! You can learn more here.
What we do: We build advanced systems and partnerships to protect bikes and support cyclists all over the world. Curious about what this looks like? Learn more here.
Why we do this: Because we love bikes, we hate thieves - and honestly nobody else out there is doing this kind of work.
We collect intelligence: We learn all kinds of things about the 'grey' & 'black' market for stolen bikes, the operators in those spaces, and their tactics, techniques, and procedures.
We operate based on donations from individuals and the bicycle industry - please consider supporting our work with a donation.
Meet Alexander's Bikes.
Alexander's bikes has a dormant, legacy Facebook page here: facebook.com/Alexanders-Bikes-109771243714067
… which dates back to 2019 - and is viewable from the US - but this is no longer the current page for this seller.
The current Alexander's Bikes page is only viewable from Mexico, here: facebook.com/Alexanders-Bikes-461529120720739
Again - you can't see this page if you are coming from non-Mexican internet. If you want to see this page, you'll have to use a VPN to route your traffic through Mexico.
Collaboration with Colorado cycling community
Skimming this seller's listings, we made several quick initial matches on stolen bikes that had been listed with Bike Index.
We also saw bikes with obvious stolen indicators in this seller's stable that weren't listed in Bike Index. When we dug into these bikes we often located the owners - typically through Facebook posts in various Colorado cycling groups. (This was slow going, and it would have helped us greatly if these bikes were simply listed as stolen in Bike Index.)
In order to get a better first assessment, we enlisted Colorado-area anti-theft folks to help us evaluate a larger 'batch' of bikes we had already archived. We knew that partners in Colorado would be more familiar with bikes stolen from their region then we were and could find more matches - which they did. Bike Index sends a massive thank you out to those people for their help with this.
We shared screenshots of bikes, their details, and data with a handful of trusted Colorado cycling folks - and the results came back pretty quickly. The process went like this
Fortunately the seller's ads- which included multiple high quality photos of each bike - also left a lot of remnants and identifiers behind.
These are just some quick examples, as you look through the archive you'll see other things like: bike shop stickers, dents/dings, bike customizations, bike decals, etc. that are all helpful identifiers.
Point being: we went through many steps to have owners positively make sure sure these bikes were indeed their stolen bikes. In many cases some components had been swapped out before being listed on this seller's Facebook page - yet there was still enough detail or other identifiers that owners were able to ID these bikes as theirs.
In that first batch of 43 bikes, we identified 10 that were matches to stolen bikes. Seven of those were "absolute confirmed matches" - and three were "close matches", i.e. owners essentially said "this looks extremely similar to my bike but I cannot discern enough details to be 100% sure."
Here are the bulk of those first matches, to give you an idea:
Make: Grimsley 29er, blue and black
Details: "That is absolutely my bike!" "Lock cut in underground, garage storage on Wednesday, October 5, 2020, between 12pm and 10pm. 5th theft occurrence at The Brodie Apartments in one week"
Make:Commencal Meta HT AM, blue
Details: Bike matched without a Bike Index listing, via assistance from Commencal - "….that is 100% my bike I had that same different front brake than the rear and all the other components are the same other than he must’ve changed the tires"
Make: Orbea Occam, Orange
Details: "Stolen from the bike storage in my apartment. The thief rode off with the bike on his motorcycle … "
Make: Specialized Stumpjumper S-works with OHLINS shock
Details: "Specialized S-Works green Stumpjumper stolen July 27th from Residence Inn in Lakewood around mid-day from locked bike rack. Unique build and frame." … "That is 100% it. The red Specialized S on the back of the down tube is not stock with the bike. I have photos that show that. "
Make:Guerilla Gravity Gnarvana, Red/Grey
Details: "Hey GG riders, especially Colorado Springs, got some sad news from my bike shop today, they had a break in and my bike was the target. So be on the lookout for a Gnarvana (Red) with a Box Prime 9 drive train, absolute black oval, red oury grips, and red one up pedals. Shop is going to make it right, but bike thieves still suck"
Make:Guerilla Gravity Megatrail, black/green
Details:"This definitely looks like my bike. The wear and tear on it resembles all the ares especially underneath and also the scrapes on the stem and the Megatrail text area, because it was a demo it had more scrapes etc than most bikes. Check out the bent rim right on the W - My photo is attached and I circled the bend in red from your screen grab. " (Further ID'd via cosmetic defect, and via the serial number that the seller had inadverdently posted in his sales photos)
At this point we felt that we had more than enough matches to confirm this seller had enough stolen bikes from Colorado that it went beyond any sort of 'accidental chance'.
Of interest: Wide geographic scope and various sources of stolen bikes that all lead to one seller
During our work, we encountered bikes that were stolen from multiple scenarios - home break-ins, vehicle break-ins, commercial burglaries, bikes snatched off the street, from garages, businesses, etc. These bikes were from all over Colorado, with no one real 'town of focus' or point of origin. This pointed to multiple different thieves, in multiple different cities, using multiple different methods.
That all these bikes stolen from such a wide geographic area - and from very different scenarios involving likely multiple different criminals - this was of specific interest because in a sense 'all roads lead to this seller'. Meaning this seller is at the end of some organized effort to collect, ship, and resell bikes stolen from multiple thieves in multiple cities.
Shifting to data collection
We shifted from finding and making stolen bikes matches to just capturing everything we could from this seller for later, and looking for some way to route it to all these victim's various law enforcement agencies.
We set up a process to capture screenshots of all their listings, turn these into MS Excel manifests, and then started asking victims to reach out to whatever departments they had filed police reports with.
The way this seller operated made this time consuming. Their listings updated almost daily, and would mix 'old' previously listed bikes in with new bikes. Each bike listing would contain between ten and twenty five images of the bike that needed to be captured. The seller also posts batches of everything all at once, so in one day they may list 40 or 50 bikes - i.e. mostly repeats, with some occasional new bikes mixed in. Pulling out and focusing on just the new bikes took a lot of work.
The seller would also periodically dump an entire listing of their whole inventory at once, meaning we had to separate these 'promotional' type posts from the individual bike sales posts. We still captured them for posterity, and you will see these posts in the archives.
Two things we were interested in during this data collection process:
1: Rapidity of shipping: We wanted to know how fast bikes stolen in Colorado were being listed for sale in Mexico. This Zerode Katipo (for example) was stolen on 8/22/2021 in Denver Colorado, and listed on 09/07/2021 for $89,700 pesos ($4480 USD) on the seller's site. This means this bike went from Denver Colorado to Juarez Mexico - over 600 miles away - in a little over two weeks.
2: Pricing and resale values Nobody has ever really quantified the economics of the black market for stolen bikes, and this seller's listing gave us a very good look at these numbers.
Clearly we don't know the seller's overhead for shipping, commissions, and storage etc - but it allows us to put some numbers around the economics of this specific market.
For example - This 2020 YT Jeffsy Pro Race would retail/resell for about $4800-5000 USD (used) at the time this article was written, but is being sold on this seller's page for $89700 pesos - roughly $4300 USD.
Location attribution & shop interior
This seller says they are located in Ciudad Juarez Mexico, and in one post lists its exact street address. Photographs from the seller's various social media line up with the Google Maps images of that street address in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
This seller is also TikTok. After months of looking at the seller's photos and trying to discern more details about the shop, these TikTok videos instead provided a rare glimpse into the interior workspace, packed with bikes and tools, and the same visual backdrop that appears in all of their ads.
Because of this, we can say the shop pictured in all these photos is physically in Mexico. Any photo of any bike taken with the branded seller backdrop is in Mexico. Facebook comments on the seller's page confirms the exact address in Mexico and the visual details line up with that location and address.
At one point we did get connected with a detective who was aware of a ring of bike thieves operating in Colorado. This is all we will say about this specific phase of our work.
Enter Colorado's "Operation Vicious Cycle'
On November 17, 2021 the Colorado Attorney General announced the indictment of 'eight individuals on 227 counts for allegedly committing a series of crimes involving 29 bike shop burglaries, 22 auto thefts, and multiple attempted burglaries and thefts stretching from Fraser to the Denver metropolitan and Boulder areas'. The multi-agency effort was titled "Operation Vicious Cycle".
The AG's press release stated that "The value of the stolen vehicles, stolen property, and property damage carried out from December 2019 until June 2020 is approximately $1.5 million," and most notably: "Prosecutors have credible evidence suggesting the group worked with “fences”—individuals in a criminal enterprise whose role is to resell stolen goods—who moved the bikes out of state and possibly into Mexico."
While Bike Index doesn't have a full accounting of all the bikes stolen from the thefts linked to the thieves in these indictments, we believe we have matched bikes from some of those shops to the bikes listed in this seller's archives. Many of them still have the shop stickers on their frames, and match make/model/descriptions of bikes taken in these thefts.
The individual indictments themselves (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) are a very interesting read and provide lots of detail about how the indicted folks operated - including details on the border crossings.
Here's the part you're here for - the archives
Bike Index has catalogued and screenshot all of the bikes sold on this seller's Facebook page since February 2021.
This archive contains roughly 1077 bicycle sales listings and over 15,000 screenshots of those listings along with their descriptions and sale price (listed in Mexican pesos).
We built a tool to help theft victims find their bikes in this seller's listings.
Our goal is to bring light to the larger problem of stolen Colorado bikes being taken out of state, make victims aware of the issue, and to locate/identify more victims from this archive that can be attributed to this seller's sales.
Ideally, this article would hopefully help de-platform this seller off of Facebook, but we aren't holding our breath on that one. Facebook is basically terrible about this, and their existing mechanisms for dealing with reporting sellers like this simply don't work. More about this in a moment …
To do this, we turned this archive into a searchable Excel document, so victims can examine these listings and search for their own stolen bikes. We would appreciate it if you could help us spread this link to any other Colorado area victims whose bikes were stolen since roughly 2019 to now.
So- please send this article to
How to search these archives:
Step 1: Open this link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1z4VDiTo-ByTK4vEZ1nEQYfAdefY4eXHtj3tA6TqBNuE
Step 2: This is a read-only Google Doc. Note there are multiple tabs, one for each month, and you can use Control-F to search each tab. For example - "Guerilla Gravity"
Step 3: For listings with screenshots, the left hand "Folder" column will have a link. Click the link to see the image listings. Click individual listings to see that screenshot.
If you find your stolen bike in these listings, please:
Do not contact us for more images of bikes in this archive. We don't have anything else - we've published everything we have.
Some thoughts on 'lessons learned' from this project.
The market for stolen bikes is larger than most people realize
Basically: Bikes taken from 'simple' crimes that are low on the radar in Colorado are making their way to this black market - way out of state. The idea that a bike being smash-and-grabbed in Colorado and winding up for sale in Juarez Mexico a couple weeks later is way outside of everybody's threat model - be it victims, law enforcement, and even us until now. Our research, combined with the Colorado Attorney general's indictments, should re-align people's thinking on this issue.
Nobody is doing the proactive anti-theft 'bike hunting' work - except us, and bike victims
We hate to say it, but it's not like Facebook or local police are looking at these kinds of online listings to find stolen bikes. Facebook is a terrible monolith of badness, local cops are overextended, and because this page is region locked, victims can't even hunt for their bikes properly either without some technical knowledge.
Chasing stolen bikes is time consuming and expensive. Selling stolen bikes appears very profitable
A lot of labor went into this project just to quantify the problem - but this was all done for zero dollars. The costs and time on this were absorbed by us and helpful volunteers.
At the same time, this seller was listing so, so many bikes - and making sales and profit all along the way. Facebook too is making a profit here, via the associated advertising and user monetization of having a popular page with tens of thousands of followers generate traffic on their platform.
Facebook is basically terrible and we lay the majority of the blame for this problem directly at their feet
Facebook's general terribleness has been quantified to no end - in almost every facet - but we'll just zoom in on a couple quick specifics here:
1) 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 "Unauthorized 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.
2) There's also the problem here that most, if not all, victims can't see this page to report it in the first place, because they've region locked access to it. We were able to get around this but we don't expect normal victims to have the technological means to do this.
3) Lastly - it's not clear to us how the hell we would even get this seller banned. Facebook's only mechanism is to "report the seller" which we did, which did nothing. And we've spoken to law enforcement about this in several states. About the only way law enforcement interfaces with Facebook is to subpoena information for investigations - not to, say, contact them and say "this seller is bad, get rid of them." That doesn't exist as far as we're aware.
We also indirectly spoke with some Facebook employees over email, whose response basically boiled down to 'we work with law enforcement' and 'report the page via our existing mechanisms.' It is worthless corporate-speak, further designed to deflect their responsibility.
So, sadly it looks like Facebook is the only one who could take the initiative to boot this seller off their platform - and the odds of that happening are pretty low, in our opinion.
Like our work? We'd appreciate your assistance
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