Thanks to a sharp-eyed resident, police returned eight stolen mountain bikes to their owners, and other happy reunions may be just a matter of time.
Police seized 84 bicycles from an Orem bicycle shop Saturday and found that eight of them matched stolen bicycle reports, Orem Detective Guy Gustman said.They plan to check makes, models and serial numbers of other bicycles against theft reports in the next few days.
Police stumbled onto the bicycle cache Friday after a woman living in the vicinity of 1200 N. Main saw two men enter a neighbor's back yard. Moments later, the men wheeled two bicycles out of the yard and down the street. The woman called Orem police.
A short time later, officers found the bicycles at Nelson's Bike Shop, 1301 N. State. They also spotted other bicycles they suspected were stolen.
Shop owner Doran Nelson, 67, didn't have proper paperwork on the bicycles and was uncooperative with the detectives, said Orem Police spokesman Gerald Nielsen. Like pawn shops, businesses that buy used goods valued at more than $20 are required to fingerprint and keep detailed records of the identities of people they buy items from.
"Whether he intentionally tried to or not, he's promoted bike theft," Gustman said.
The officers returned to the shop Saturday, but the bicycles were gone. However, they noticed tire tracks in the dirt outside the business leading to a basement. The officers obtained a search warrant and found 84 bicycles, mostly 10-speeds, stashed there.
Police confiscated the bicycles, although they don't believe all are stolen. Nielsen said the business paid $20 to $50 for bicycles worth as much as $400.
Police used a second search warrant to seize the bike shop's business records. Among the records police found an order for 100 bicycles that were to be shipped to Mexico, Nielsen said.
Orem police receive about one stolen bicycle report every day during the summer, Gustman said.
"The biggest problem with bike theft is that most owners don't take the time to record serial numbers," he said. Because police can't match recovered bicycles to their owners, they often end up in public auctions.
Police arrested and booked Nelson for investigation of racketeering. He's being held in the Orem City Jail.