Police: Bicycle bandit busted Man accused of being Boulder's most prolific bike thief in jail
By Christine Reid, Camera Staff Writer
December 21, 2005
John Piazza stopped at the Penny Lane coffee shop for just a couple of minutes last summer when, he said, his "happiness" was stolen. Piazza's silver-and-orange Specialized Enduro-Pro mountain bike, locked to a rack on the back of his car, had been swiped in broad daylight from a busy downtown Boulder parking lot.
He was the victim, police said, of a man accused of being Boulder's most prolific bike thief, now in jail thanks to an eBay search.
Terrance Michael Farrell, 33, is accused of selling 40 high-end bikes worth a total of more than $70,000 between November 2004 and June 2005 to eBay entrepreneur Stephen Ellison, who in turn sold them to the highest bidder on the auction Web site.
Piazza got a call from police in the fall, notifying him that they had found his $3,000 prized possession in Ellison's Thornton garage.
"I felt like a little kid," Piazza said. "I was so happy."
Farrell, who is being held at the Boulder County Jail in lieu of a $17,500 bond, could be sentenced to as many as 42 years in prison if convicted of felony theft charges and violating probation from a previous bicycle theft conviction.
A trial is scheduled for March.
"A lot of our bike thefts are crimes of opportunity or desire, but I don't think we see a lot of serial bike thefts to this extent," said Boulder police spokeswoman Julie Brooks.
Also setting this case apart from others is how the suspect was tracked down.
A man who had his teal 2001 Bianchi Axis road bike stolen from a rack at 11th and Pearl streets in April set up an automatic search on eBay to alert him when a similar bike went up for sale, according to an arrest warrant. The man called police upon seeing his $1,600 ride on the auction block, and detectives ended up seizing dozens of stolen bikes from Ellison's home, his son's garage and a storage locker.
Ellison told police he had no idea the bikes were stolen and pointed them to Farrell as his supplier, according to the warrant.
Ellison, who goes by the eBay seller name "rocknrollprof," said he would talk to Farrell three times a week, and the two would meet at parks or Farrell's Boulder apartment parking lot to exchange cash for bikes, the warrant stated.
Ellison, who quit his teaching job at the University of Colorado at Denver because of his booming Internet sales business, said he believed Farrell was getting the bikes as trade-ins from his roommate's father's shop. He described Farrell as a well-groomed, articulate man who seemed to have come from an affluent family.
Ellison said he has no idea how many bicycles he got from Farrell and sold on eBay, but he noted that bikes are a small part of his business. He also sells stereos, commercial construction equipment and cameras - items Ellison said he picks up at auctions, pawn shops and flea markets.
"I won't buy bikes anymore - I just won't," Ellison said.
He said he recently had to deal with police in Denver about a shady bike dealer there.
Ellison, who said he was out $5,000 after Boulder police confiscated the bikes, is waiting for Farrell's case to end so he can take possession of any bicycles police are unable to match up with an owner.
"I'm a victim in this situation," Ellison said.
Purchasers of the stolen bikes who were tracked down by police are also out money because they must return the bikes, Brooks said. Many have been "cooperative," she said, but many remain unknown.
Farrell has an extensive criminal history, according to police, including forgery, trespassing, assault, fraud and theft. He was arrested in March 2004 on suspicion of selling stolen bicycles from the CU campus on the Internet site Craigslist.com and later pleaded guilty to felony theft.
He also is accused of selling a laptop computer stolen in October 2004 from a Goss Street apartment. Detectives linked Farrell to that theft after a man who bought an Apple iBook off Craigslist.com took the machine in for a tune-up.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Christine Reid at (303) 473-1355 or [email protected].