SPD’s fake store puts dent in Seattle’s stolen goods market — Missing a bike? Take a look

A swarm of arrests of alleged burglars, car and bike thieves across Seattle Monday — including several in the East Precinct — marked the culmination of a year-long stolen good buy-back operation, Seattle Police said Tuesday.

Operation Oliver’s Twist — named for a retiring captain — involved SPD and the FBI collaborating on a fake south Seattle storefront where stolen goods from more than 100 alleged thieves was brought for sale. So far, there have been 48 arrests with more in the works.


Police say the operation was an effort to disrupt part of the fencing cycle of demand for stolen items:

Detective work has also shown that once property is stolen, it is quickly disposed of through pawn shops, illegal fences, other criminals, or well known internet web sites, often far below retail prices, for pennies on the dollar.

According to SPD, more than 900 stolen items were netted over the year-long investigation:

During the operation, detectives purchased over 900 stolen items including 146 watercraft, motorcycles and other vehicles, 76 bicycles, numerous stolen computers and personal electronic devices, personal identifications, passports, and credit cards.

Police also recovered 27 stolen firearms in the course of the investigation. One alleged thief even sold military grade C-4 to the undercover detectives operating the shop.

A byproduct of the extended operation is that most of the stolen goods couldn’t immediately be returned to victims of burglaries and auto thefts for fear of alerting the suspects to the investigation — especially in the several cases where the goods were stolen from relatives and friends.

SPD has set up a Flickr set of unclaimed goods from the operation here. If you see your property in the set, call (206) 733-9616. You’ll need to have reported the item stolen or have proof that the item was yours like a picture of you with the item.

Click for full set via Flickr

The operation is another in a series of efforts involving Seattle’s Major Crimes Task Force. The last two operations targeted small convenience stores that were ordering and purchasing stolen property for resale. According to police, it’s been more than 30 years since SPD utilized the tactic of operating a fake store in a buyback investigation.

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5 thoughts on “SPD’s fake store puts dent in Seattle’s stolen goods market — Missing a bike? Take a look

  1. They thought that opening a new fencing operation would lower demand for stolen property? So people steal more when there is no place they can sell their hot merch? Odd logic.

  2. Why are these items included (as unclaimed property) if the names are on them? Wouldn’t the police be contacting these people?

    And one name is clearly visible because they didn’t block out the signature on the license….

  3. I think SPD’s logic may have been to take out some of the buyers of stolen merchandise in the area. Since they’re the government and have a lot of support from the FBI city taxpayers and taxpayers from other states may have contributed to buying back the stolen goods. If this was the case, they could have paid substantially more than **EVERY** other stolen goods buyer in the Puget Sound area. If those buyers can’t pay what the government does, guess what? The thieves all start to sell to the undercover operation. This essentially puts the other buyers out of that business (at least temporarily), somewhat similar to what happens when stores close due to a lack of customers.

    I think law enforcement should do this type of thing more frequently. I’m sure anyone who recovered their stolen goods from this operation agrees with me. These people are career thieves. Some people think that if this operation didn’t happen the **CAREER THIEVES** would just stop breaking into cars and houses looking for shit to easily sell such as iPhones, cameras, tools, laptops… essentially what’s in the photos.

    At the very least some of the most notorious thieves were taken off the streets due to this operation. Watch the video and listen to the guys talking about stealing mopeds so quick that he’s sitting on five and the other guy who steals boats like he’s jumping on another bus. Lol, one of the boats was attached to the truck that he needed to steal so guess what, the boat went too in a “package deal.” I suspect that these are probably some of the most professional, career thieves in the PNW. This might even keep insurance premiums down just a bit.

    Unfortunately, my stolen phone wasn’t in the pictures.