A Story of Redemption

March 29: I took delivery of a new e-mountain bike today. I need it like another hole in the head. Let me explain...

I have had an Orbea mountain e-bike custom ordered since late December, after my other bike had been stolen right outa my own garage. It was like, one morning I got up, walked through the garage side door and noticed…something different: first, the car door was ajar. Second, the contents of the car’s console had been removed and neatly placed on the driver’s seat. RuhRow

.

I looked around the garage and my heart skipped a beat. My nearly new $5,000 e-bike was gone! In its place, the thief’s skateboard was neatly tilted against the wall.

I immediately called the incident in to the Sheriff. Within minutes, I heard a distant wail of a siren bleating out a kind of whoot-whoot sound…and saw him roaring down the street through the early morning mist like a Bat-outa-Compton. It was a Black and White SUV …with Blue and Red Strobes lit up like some kind of Goddamn UFO, coming in HOT and pitching sidewise into my driveway! Things were still hissing when The Deputy slowly opened his door, easefully got out and, while walking toward me, removed his shades in a kind of David Caruso studied casualness...

OK…that’s not exactly how it went down.

Actually the Deputy Sheriff just drove up and parked across the street, no CODE-35, in fact not much of anything. He DID a perfunctory walk-around, asked a few lame questions, didn’t dust for prints, took the skateboard and left. It's just another stolen bike, GET OVER IT!

Then I called my home insurance to start a claims report. Luckily I had the bike’s serial number and receipts for all the other tools and accessories the thief was able to cram into my Camelbak. “Things like this are rarely recovered” she said.

What if it IS recovered” I asked

“If it is recovered, just don’t tell us”   Remember this statement. 

Later that day I posted the incident on NextDoor and got several responses from neighbors who also had their unlocked cars rummaged through that same night, all with their console contents stacked neatly.

“Be Advised: alleged thief is known to be Obsessive-Compulsive”

It became clear that the thief had simply skated through, or rather under, the Westwood entrance gate, probably after midnight and, after a series of dead ends…BINGO, hit the $5,000 jackpot!  

 

The Good News is that I had a security camera actually IN THE GARAGE! The Bad News is that the batteries were dead.

Several weeks later I called the insurance company to see how the claim was progressing.

“We’re just waiting on the Sheriff’s report”

So I called the Sheriff, and while I was waiting for a reply, I decided to check Craigslist one more time just to see…and THERE IT WAS! No question that IT WAS MY BIKE! The ad had already been posted for THREE days from some place in Livermore. (seller's asking price $3500; no test ride without cash in hand) My heart was racing. I immediately called the Sheriff, yet again “The Deputy is in the field. I’ll send him your message” I thought...Did you check the DoNut shops?

While I was waiting for the Return Call, I carefully thought about just how to approach the seller, and not raise suspicions.

 

Me: “Is this bike still available”

Yes  

So, I’ve been looking for this bike for some time” I texted “I know it’s no longer imported and they’re hard to find”

Yes I know

“But...I texted, I did find one dealer in Italy that has a close-out on a 2019 Focus eBike for $3200 with free shipping. Here’s the link. I really don’t want to fuss with international shipping but would you be able to match that price?”

Sure

I paused on my response to try the Sheriff, again…and also to let the seller chill a bit. I called back to dispatch “I need to talk with somebody, anybody, this is a time-critical issue

Finally, after 24 HOURS of no response, and the seller still hanging, I called 911. The operator understood my urgency and I got a callback in minutes.

“I need some advice” and explained the situation.

If the seller is in Livermore, it’s their jurisdiction” was the answer. 

The next morning I responded to the seller. It was pretty clear he didn’t want to meet me at his place. I wouldn’t either if I were selling stolen goods. Duh.

I said I “don’t feel comfortable meeting in some anonymous parking lot” and he said…Let’s meet at the Livermore PD lot

Great Idea!

So we were all set for 11:00 Saturday. I called Livermore PD, talked to some dork, explained the situation, and scheduled to meet him inside the PD at 10:45 to set up The Sting!

I got there at 10:45, went up to the PD door, which was locked (Saturday!) pushed a button and talked to someone over a speakerbox, sat down and waited. At 10:55, the cop finally comes down, and starts asking Why I Think That it’s My Bike. Before I can answer, I get a text from the perp saying that the venue has been changed. He now wants to meet in the Target Parking Lot. What?

So I get in my car and follow the Black & White to Target which is a couple miles away.  We split upon entering the large parking lot. I immediately spot the perp standing by his SUV with MY BIKE on his bumper rack. I parked in a spot several cars away, set my iPhone to REC with the camera barely visible in my shirt pocket. As I approach the Crime Scene, I see that the cop has stopped his patrol car right behind his SUV, blocking any exit. The perp looks to be in his 20s, maybe 30s, and doesn't look like a petty thief. I hear the cop saying…this guy thinks this bike might be his, so we just want to check it out, ok?

As we were trying to locate the Serial Number on the bike, the cop asks him:  So when did you get this bike?

Perp: It was about two years ago, in South Lake Tahoe. Yeah, I rode the flume trail.

And I'm thinking: Not on THIS bike. Then I show the document with matching numbers, both Frame # and Serial #

Book 'Em Danno!

The cop then asks the Perp: Can I see some ID ? He opened his wallet and showed the cop something I couldn’t see.

The cop looked surprised. “Wait a minute. You should have showed me that right off. Right? Because, do you know what could happen if you didn’t?”

Perp: “I would definitely be arrested”

Cop: Right. so, look, you’re not in any trouble. You didn’t know it was stolen. We just want to know who you got it from.

Perp: It was from a trading site. I don't have a name. It was about two years ago.

Cop: That can’t be. The bike has only been missing six weeks.

Perp: OK, maybe it was a year ago…

Cop: Look, you’re not going to jail, ok? We just…How much did you pay for it?

Perp: Who me? About a thousand dollars.

And so it went…

Finally the cop said, OK, (looking at me) You’re getting your bike back, and you (the perp) you’re out a thousand dollars. So we’re done here. But Alex, remember ANY time you come in contact with law enforcement, you MUST show that (whatever it was) upfront. Got it?

So what was going down here? Grand Theft, or at the least Receiving Stolen Goods just got dismissed with  a “See Ya” Best guess is that he had some kind of immunity, maybe like the son of a diplomat? But all it took was just flashing some ID? Aren't they supposed to call somebody to check it out? 

Epilogue:

A few weeks after my bike was stolen, I was resigned to the fact that it would never be recovered. After all, both the Sheriff and my insurance company said so. So, I went ahead and got a new e-Bike during a weekend sale, custom-ordered from Spain!

During all this time, I was negotiating with insurance that my new bike which, even though it was more expensive, is the replacement equivalent of my stolen bike. Here’s the data…etc. She said: I'll pass your information on the the review committee.... 

The DAY I got home from The Sting, with my recovered bike IN the car, Deputy Dog finally responded to my one-week-old URGENT email.

 

"Sorry, I have been on vacation but I'm SO glad you got your bike back!You’re Welcome.

Also, on that Very Same day I got a call from my insurance agent saying that they had just received the Sheriff’s Report and would be issuing a check for the full amount of the new bike!

Now I have two bikes and one amazing story.  

 

ADDENDUM:

The CraigsList AD

 Alex aka David...click for video. At 1:40 the officer asks for ID

the perp.JPG
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