The slogan on Vancouver, BC's BikeRescue.org website must have sounded almost too good to be true to someone trying to recover a stolen bicycle:
“Ripped. Rescued. Returned. Putting bikes back where they belong.”
The website claimed the project had returned 256 stolen bikes by finding obviously stolen bicycles for sale at low prices, buying them, then reuniting them with their owners.
Well, it was too good to be true.
The head of the organization, Gordon Sinclair Blackwell, 41, was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to 36 counts of possession of stolen property (bicycles).
He admitted in court that his bike rescue operation was little more than a bike-fencing operation, according to the Vancouver Sun.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police who got their man in this case after leads into North Vancouver bike thefts led them to Blackwell's warehouse where they seized more than 150 bicycles in November.
While keeping 150 stolen bikes in a warehouse might seem extreme, Blackwall was small time compared to Toronto's Igor Kenk, who police say kept 2,000 to 2,900 stolen bikes in warehouses around that city. He's serving 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to 10 counts of stolen bike possession.
Blackwell has 24 previous convictions for fraud, according to the Sun. He was arrested and charged in this case on Jan. 6.
The BikeRescue.org website is still up. The message at the bottom of the page sounds a little odd for a group that tries to unite stolen bikes with their owners:
“Those of you who have heard the rumor, unfortunately it is true. I will be shutting down Bike Rescue at the end of this bike season. The reasons are my own, but I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all who have had involvement in this program. The next few weekends are going to see us doing a MASSIVE sell off of our bikes in preparation for closing our doors. If you have been holding off on getting a bike, now is the time to do it! Keep an eye on our For Sale page for an updated list of what is available.”
An article written months earlier in The Tyee, “Bike rescuer slips into the shadows,” reports on the “gray zone” of the law in which Blackwell operated. One thing is for certain, police said they didn't have a “working relationship” with Blackwell as he claimed.
As of now, the police have reunited 40 of those rescued bicycles with their rightful owners. Others should contact the RCMP.
The Vancouver Sun says:
“Anyone whose bike was stolen between 2008 and fall 2009 is asked to contact the North Vancouver RCMP by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Inquiries should include make, model, components, accessories, unique markings and, if possible, a photo of the bicycle.”