Alleged high-end bike thieves used Craigslist to find victims
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has arrested three men accused of being at the center of a sophisticated bike-stealing ring that targeted bikes worth $2,000 to $30,000.
On Wednesday, detectives will hold a news conference hoping to reunite 150 stolen bikes with their owners. Some of the stolen bikes have already been returned, but authorities are looking for other victims of the alleged ring.
Detectives said the thieves scanned Craigslist and Facebook to identify targets, making away with the designer racing bikes.
They allegedly preyed on the growing online community of Los Angeles bike enthusiasts who share photos about rides and their latest bike acquisitions on various websites and look for parts on Craigslist.
Two brothers from Los Angeles, Julian Herrera, 23, and Jamie Herrera, 21, and a Colton man identified as 34-year-old Alberto Mejia face dozens of counts of burglary and conspiracy after authorities reported finding purloined bikes and bike parts at various locations including one of the suspect's homes.
Los Angeles police made arrests in 2011 after a series of high-end bike thefts in Brentwood, Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica. The suspects included Mejia and Julian Herrera, who worked in his family's gardening business at some of the homes that were hit. Both men were arrested and eventually convicted, along with Julian's uncle, Marvin Herrera.
When they were released after a few weeks in jail, the bike thefts resumed over a wider territory with help from the Internet, detectives say.
Authorities allege that the suspects began scouring Craigslist and bike websites looking for expensive bicycles for sale. They allegedly chatted with the owners, using fake names such as Joe Wayne, Justin Vyor and Mark Silverstein.
Sheriff's Lt. Kent Wegener said the suspects tried to glean more information about the kind of bikes the sellers owned and where they rode. They even persuaded some sellers to email additional photos. If they got names of the sellers, they logged into Facebook in search of more information. They also used Facebook to find fellow riders who could become future targets, Wegener said.
— Andrew Blankstein
Photo: Some of the recovered racing bikes that police say were stolen from victims found through Facebook and Craigslist. Two brothers from Los Angeles, Julian Herrera, top, and Jamie Herrera, middle, and a Colton man identified as 34-year-old Alberto Mejia, bottom, face dozens of counts of burglary and conspiracy. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times