A recent WIRED investigation uncovered a high-end crime ring that appeared to be shipping stolen Bay Area electric bikes to Mexico. New reporting shows that the local epicenter of this ring may be a transmission shop in San Jose.

Back in 2021, we reported on a surprisingly sophisticated electric bike theft operation that was causing a huge spike in the theft of these high-end bicycles. The perps had graduated into using portable angle grinders, cordless screwdrivers, and were even tracking bike riders on the app Strava to get a sense of their bike usage and whereabouts.

The 2021 timing may have not been a coincidence. Earlier this month, WIRED published a bombshell investigative piece showing that electric bikes were being stolen in the Bay Area and being shipped to Jalisco, Mexico. They were then being sold on a Facebook page called Constru-Bikes (which does not appear to currently be accessible in the US, but you can see a screenshot below).

The evidence had been gathered by a website called Bike Index, which tracks and tries to recover stolen bicycles. They have a searchable online database of bikes hawked by the Constru-Bikes crew.

“Located in Jalisco, Mexico, this seller — operating as 'ConstruBikes' — fenced bikes sourced almost exclusively from the San Francisco Bay area,” according to Bike Index. “Our first initial investigation matched several stolen bikes right from the first glance, and the more we looked, the more we found.”

The WIRED investigation noted that a San Jose man had been arrested for his alleged involvement with the ring, and had been indicted by the feds — over bikes stolen in the aforementioned year of 2021. But Bike Index co-founder Bryan Hance was stunned to find that the indictment only mentioned nine stolen bikes.  “It’s like a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the whole thing,” Hance told WIRED.

Bay Area News Group took up their own investigation that was published today. That outlet says that Hance can document “60 to 100 bikes worth $2,000 to $10,000 [each, that] have been stolen from Bay Area garages and apartments as part of the operation.”

The San Jose man who was arrested is Victoriano Romero, who is out on bail and awaiting trial. His federal indictment says Romero “had the stolen bicycles disassembled and packaged up for delivery at his automotive shop in San Jose,” Romero is the owner of a San Jose transition shop called Tepeke Transmission.

Hance says he noticed Facebook posts in which the bikes were clearly photographed inside Tepeke Transmission. “Same wall, same door, same color,” he told Bay Area News Group, noting that transmission parts were plainly visible in the background of the photos.

Bike Index made repeated reports to Facebook about the stolen bikes being sold on its  marketplace, with no response. The News Group says that Facebook’s parent company Meta “declined to answer questions from this news organization about its response to Bike Index’s reports to the company about stolen bicycles.”

Related: SF Theft Wave of High-End Bikes Vexes Non-Violent Crime Enforcement Reforms [SFist]

Image: Harley-Davidson via Unsplash