The number of cyclists flocking to the Grand Valley to take advantage of the area's unique trails and scenery is on the rise, but so too are the opportunities for bike thieves to cash in on the trend.
Area law enforcement agencies have made numerous arrests related to bike thefts in just the past few days, including the arrests of seven people caught up in a bait-bike investigation that led to the discovery of a cache of stolen bikes and bike parts Wednesday.
More than 80 bike frames, many of them stolen, and a large number of disassembled bike parts were allegedly discovered at the home at 1830 N. 15th St. in what a police investigator described as a likely "chop shop" for bicycles stolen in the area.
Arrested in direct connection with the bait-bike investigation were Tristin Bales, 32; Brenda Goff, 27; Raymond Ayers, 46; and Hayley Kuntz, 22. James Farnsworth, 32, was arrested on suspicion of providing false information to law enforcement, and Jefferi Orona, 35, and Sydney Abeyta, 26, were arrested on outstanding warrants.
A day before Wednesday's discovery, Grand Junction police were monitoring a nearly $4,000 mountain bike equipped with GPS tracking and a video feed that they locked to a rack near Colorado Mesa University, where a number of bikes had previously been stolen.
The bait bike's lock was cut and the bike was stolen between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. Wednesday. Video footage led to two known suspects — Bales and Goff, according to police.
When police located Goff near 15th and Orchard, she allegedly admitted to officers that the stolen bike was on the property. Bales, also located nearby, was arrested and allegedly admitted to stealing the bait bike, and also that many of the bikes located at the property were stolen as well.
Investigators worked through the night Wednesday and into Thursday to inventory the scores of bike frames and parts discovered at the address. Many of the frames lacked serial numbers, apparently filed down to prevent law enforcement from tracking them.
Ayers and Kuntz were each arrested and face possible charges of theft and complicity. The two were spotted on video of the bait bike hours before it was stolen trying to make off with the bicycle. Ayers allegedly stole the grips from the bike as Kuntz allegedly kept lookout, and Kuntz is alleged to have stolen some bike tools from the pouch of a bicycle nearby.
Orona was with Goff when contacted by police Wednesday, and he was arrested on an outstanding warrant for theft and providing false information on a pawn slip. On April 17 he allegedly stole a unicycle valued at $400 locked to a bike rack outside of CMU's Pinon Hall. After the theft, investigators checked pawn shops in the area and were able to track the unique item to a local shop, whose owner paid Orona $80 for the unicycle in May.
Bales was advised in Mesa County Court Thursday on possible charges related to the bike theft, as well as a possible assault count in another case. He was issued a $5,000 cash bond.
Ayers, Goff, Kuntz and Orona also appeared Thursday and were released on personal-recognizance bonds.
In an unrelated theft case, Grand Junction police stopped Andrew Arms, 18, in a stolen truck, with two stolen mountain bikes in the back, just before midnight Wednesday.
Early Wednesday, three people staying in a Fruita hotel reported that their three mountain bikes — valued at $5,800, $5,000 and $4,000 — were stolen from a bike rack hooked to the hitch of their pickup. The three bikes were not locked to the rack, police noted.
Two of the bikes stolen in Fruita were in the stolen truck Arms was driving. He told police that he pawned the third bike for $500 earlier in the day.
Arms is set to be advised on motor-vehicle and other theft charges, as well as theft charges in another case involving a bicycle, today in court.
Police mug shots for Kuntz and Farnsworth were not available as of Thursday evening.