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Three alleged bike thieves arrested by L.A. police preparing sting operation

April 30, 2010 |  8:55 am

Los Angeles police detectives preparing a bicycle-theft sting operation downtown got lucky Thursday evening when they arrested three men who  allegedly tried to steal two bikes nearby.
Witnesses at Sunset Boulevard and Figueroa Street alerted police after they saw the suspects ride up on bikes, cut the locks, then ride away, guiding the two stolen bikes beside them,  Lt. Paul Vernon said. The detectives, Vernon said, happened to at nearby drugstore,  he said.

The detectives captured the suspects with the assistance of an off-duty LAPD officer, who was working security at a nearby school. One of the suspects had bolt-cutters hidden in a  pant leg, Vernon said.

The detectives returned the two stolen bikes to their owners, who were both students at the school, Vernon said. 

Police found a driver’s license number etched on one of the thieves’ own bicycles. The driver’s license number was connected to a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, who reported the $800 bicycle stolen in 2004 from Whittier, Vernon said.

Josue Bran, Jessy Guerrero and Hugo Ascencio, all 19 and all of Hollywood,  each were booked on suspicion of grand theft and held in lieu of  $20,000 each. The arrests are the latest in a serious of arrests of bike thieves by police in recent weeks.

Nearly 2,000 bicycles were reported stolen in 2009 across the city, a 29% increase over the prior year, police said. With an increasing number of residential lofts downtown, bicycle commuters have become a favorite target.

-- Richard Winton