With a little good fortune and the “find my iPad” app, SPD appears to have nailed a stolen goods trafficking operation on Capitol Hill. One man has been arrested in the investigation but has not yet been charged with a crime.
CHS user niemcziek figured it all out months ago.
“The bottom line is we have solid proof these people are selling stolen goods on eBay,” niemcziek wrote to CHS in mid-September about an eBay account the reader traced to a 12th Ave address.
“Yesterday I was contacted by a good samaritan in Baltimore, claiming to have purchased my bike on eBay,” niemcziek told CHS in a September email.
The buyer, suspicious of the Capitol Hill, Seattle-based seller’s evasive behavior via email started looking for answers after he purchased the stripped frame. He found out about the New Year’s Eve day 2012 burglary of two high-end cycles worth north of $10,000 and contacted niemcziek. The serial number was a match.
Niemcziek began tracking the eBay account and found a busy merchant at work.
“We looked further into the endless list of high end bikes, computers, and other items for sale by this Seattle couple and have already identified at least one more bike and one laptop belonging to friends whose home was burglarized 3 weeks ago,” niemcziek told us in September.
Niemcziek’s friends purchased their bike via eBay and went to the 12th Ave home to pick it up. There, niemcziek tells CHS, the seller told her friends the bike had been purchased via Craigslist. You can call the cops if you want to, the seller assured.
Niemcziek tells CHS she provided the results of her investigation to police. The SPD report on this week’s arrest notes that burglary detectives were “familiar” with the home: “Detectives from the East Precinct responded to the scene and immediately recognized the suspect and location as being involved in the trafficking of stolen property.”
CHS began looking into the allegations after hearing from neimcziek in September but there was nothing solid we could report. The names associated with the account had no significant Washington state criminal records and there were no police reports involving the address associated with the account. Last Friday night, CHS watched as police emptied the home of computer after computer and removed several boxes of hardware. The pieces snapped together.
Weeks before, armed with more information after his contact with her, niemcziek said the Baltimore buyer emailed the eBay seller and threatened to report the account to the online service and police. Niemcziek says the seller quickly refunded the buyer’s money and offered to have the bike shipped back to her — if she paid $85 to cover the cost.
“The bike is with its new owner,” niemcziek writes today with the news of the arrest and investigation finally breaking. “I didn’t want it back since it was stripped and sanded. I let him keep it as a ‘thank you’ for helping us bust this guy.”
For now, the bust is a personal victory. Though the account involved in the earlier transactions has been shut down — “eBay will no longer allow me to sell on this account,” the seller complains — the seller apparently already has a new account active. We’ll let you know when we hear back from the invitation to email the seller for the new eBay user ID.
We’ll also let you know when — and if — criminal charges are eventually filed. As we noted earlier, a spokesperson for the King County Prosecutor told CHS on Tuesday that the case has not yet been referred to its office.
Police are asking that burglary victims in the area be patient as evidence is examined and cataloged. A department spokesperson said it hasn’t yet been determined if the items will be featured online as they have in past investigations. On Flickr, by the way. Not eBay.