As evil as cops paint these guys to be, you gotta admit, they were scary sophisticated in their use of Craigslist, Facebook and social manipulation -- if the story's true.
Here's the deal, according an announcement by L.A. County Sheriff's officials this week:
A crew of bike thieves targeted victims who had high-end bicycles for sale on Craigslist:
Three suspects are believed to have taken $100,000 worth of bikes after posing as buyers, getting information about the sellers' homes from Facebook and White Pages, and burglarizing their homes between 1 and 4 a.m. in suburban communities across Southern California.
Most of the bicycles were worth $5,000 to $15,000, according to deputies. According to a sheriff's statement:
The suspects would ... drive to the targeted residences and burglarize them between 1 AM and 4 AM, often times when the victims were steps away, asleep inside of their homes. Entry into the homes was made via garage door openers, which were left inside of accessible cars or by cutting the garage door at the top and using a makeshift tool to pull the garage door opener cord, detaching the opener from the door and allowing the door to be easily rolled up. Although many of the bikes were taken from the garages, often times the suspects would enter the living areas of the residence, to locate and steal the property.
But the ring came to an end after cops baited them to a home in Rancho Cucamonga and witnessed the crew rip off a $5,000 bike before attempting to hit another house, according the sheriff's department.
The suspects, deputies say, subsequently admitted to 100 such burglaries.
The trio, cops say, fenced the bikes to a bicycle shop owner in L.A., identified as 33-year-old Melecio Martinez. Sheriff's officials say "charges are pending" against him.
The burglary suspects were ID'd as:
Julian Herrera, 23, of Los Angeles.
Jaime Herrera, 21, of Panorama City.
Alberto Mejia, 24, of Colton.
They were being held in San Bernardino County Jail in lieu of $2 million bail each.
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Here's the problem: While some of the victims were identified and saw the return of their high-dollar wheels, many others remain, and cops are trying to find them.
The burglaries took place in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties, in communities that included Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, Woodland Hills, Santa Clarita, Whittier, Oak Park, Temecula, Murrieta, Irvine, Fountain Valley, San Bernardino, Thousand Oaks, and Torrey Pines.
Did you recently advertise a high-end bicycle only to have it ripped off? Call the Sheriff's Major Crimes Bureau at 562-946-7893.