Operation Vicious Cycle: Attorney General Phil Weiser charges 8 in vast vehicle theft and bicycle shop burglary criminal ring
Nov. 17, 2021 (DENVER)—The statewide grand jury indicted 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, Attorney General Phil Weiser announced today. The value of the stolen vehicles, stolen property, and property damage carried out in 2019 and 2020 is approximately $1.5 million.
The pattern of the burglaries that occurred during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was consistent, according to grand jury indictments. After planning a burglary over Facebook Messenger, the individuals allegedly operated in groups of up to four to steal either a box truck or van and ram it into the front doors or windows of a bicycle shop, or they would break the front windows with large landscaping rocks or other tools. Defendants then stole high-end mountain bikes—bypassing other types of merchandise and equipment—and transferred the stolen goods to another individual for suspected transport out of the country before abandoning the vehicle used in the burglary and fleeing in a second stolen vehicle.
According to surveillance video, in one burglary the suspects stole $90,000 worth of bicycles in under five minutes. The indictments detail how the defendants targeted some shops repeatedly. Giant Cycling World in Littleton, for example, was hit four times over the course of several months. Totally Wired Cyclery in Fraser was hit twice in 10 days. Six businesses were burglarized in Boulder County, including Boulder Cycle Sport in Boulder, Redstone Cyclery in Lyons, and Cenna Custom Cycles in Longmont.
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. Few bikes were recovered. The approximate value of the stolen bikes is $985,000 and the approximate value of the stolen vehicles is $258,000. Total property damage between vehicles and businesses is $231,837.
“Auto thefts and property crimes have increased significantly during the last two years. Working with our law enforcement partners, we broke up this multi-layered criminal enterprise that harmed several businesses and nonprofit organizations in the mountain communities and Denver metro and Boulder areas. We will hold these individuals to account for their actions and harm they caused to the victims and our communities,” Attorney General Weiser said.
“From speaking with bike store owners, I know that these break-ins and thefts have caused significant harm for the victims and our communities. This indictment is the direct result of a united, tireless effort to bring down a multi-jurisdictional theft operation. The District Attorney’s Office appreciates our strong partnerships with the Boulder Police Department, FBI, and the Attorney General’s Office. Our office remains committed to ensuring that the individuals involved in these property crimes are held fully responsible for their actions. I want to thank Attorney General Weiser for putting together this team effort and fighting for community safety,” Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said.
Eight individuals are variously charged with violating Colorado’s Organized Crime Control Act (F2), first-degree aggravated motor vehicle theft (F4), second-degree burglary (F4), theft (F4), and criminal mischief (F6), in addition to other charges.
The cases were filed in Boulder District Court on October 25, 2021. The case numbers for each of the defendants are: Kevin Acosta-Larkin, 21CR1804; Austin Butler, 21CR1808; Gerald Garcia, 21CR1801; Maurice Leday, 21CR1805; Gregory Melina, 21CR1806; Salvador Mena-Barreno, 21CR1802; Jason Quijada, 21CR1807; and Adrian Rocha-Chairez, 21CR1803.
The investigation in this case was possible due to the dedication and determination of the Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Unit, the Boulder District Attorney’s Office, the Boulder Police Department, and Detective Ed Burke.
“This was a complex investigation that would not have been possible were it not for the great work of everyone involved and the phenomenal collaboration of all of these agencies,” Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said. “The City of Boulder experiences over one million dollars in bike theft yearly, causing significant community harm. This investigation and subsequent arrests are not only a good example of the hard work and dedication of what detectives do every day, but it also shows the community how seriously we take these crimes.”
In addition to the Attorney General’s partnership with authorities in Boulder County, Attorney General Weiser also thanked the following law enforcement partners for their support and cooperation in the investigation and indictment: District Attorney Alexis King from the First Judicial District (Jefferson and Gilpin Counties); Denver District Attorney Beth McCann; District Attorney Matt Karzen from the 14th Judicial District (Grand, Moffatt and Routt Counties); District Attorney Brian Mason of the 17th Judicial District (Adams and Broomfield Counties); District Attorney John Kellner of the 18th Judicial District (Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln Counties); the FBI Safe Streets Task Force; the Denver Police Department; the Littleton Police Department; and the Auto Theft Intelligence Coordination Center and the Colorado Metropolitan Auto Theft Task Force sections of the Colorado State Patrol.
A grand jury indictment is merely a formal accusation that an individual committed a crime under Colorado laws. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.