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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 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 took the machine in for a tune-up.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Christine Reid at (303) 473-1355 or [email protected].
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I hope some folks are able to get their bikes back for Christmas. That would be a great gift, indeed.

Thanks for posting.
Is it just me or does it seem like Ellison (the Ebay bike seller) is getting off a little easy? Both those guys deserve a punch in the throat. :mad:

Ellison a victim? The Farrell guy is obviously due his sentence, but Ellison/pawn shops etc are a big part of the problem. If there weren't a market there wouldn't be much theft.

Kind of sucks for the people losing money on their eBay purchases. Buyer beware. Hope the bikes are reunited with their owners...

SilentK said:
Is it just me or does it seem like Ellison (the Ebay bike seller) is getting off a little easy? Both those guys deserve a punch in the throat. :mad:
i agree. buying many bikes in a parking lot for cash is not shady? that Ellison guy should get a foot up his arse, too. bike thiefs are losers. my worst nightmare.
throw the book at both

The stealer should go to prison for a long time IMO.
so ellison is selling all the easiest stuff to steal and he pleading ignorance. The irs should be alerted to his cash purchasing and sales and see what they think!
Ellison - innocent? - Does Not Compute....

Hi all I just have to chime in on this one.
Ellison innocent...I THINK NOT.
Ok, here is a guy who left his teaching position at the University to pursue a more lucrative and more Exciting line of work. What was his area of knowledge and credentials I wonder? A professor of anything even of the pawn industry or 'stupid bidness dealings 101' knows that a "cash business" is large red flag. Doing business in parkinglots and the like is another red flag. Did Ellison ever investigate/research his "source" of stolen items? If not this is yet another red flag.

Granted we only saw the outline of the activities in the postings but the stench is significant. His ignorance whether intentional or not is unacceptable. Did he ever once run serial numbers by the local LBS's or police department to protect his intertest and his "investments"? Sorry, but this man deserves no sympathy nor forgiveness. He knew what he was involved in and likely chose not to ask pertinent questions, thus he knew he could plead IGNORANCE, and claim he was a VICTIM too. What BS, Let's call a Spade a Spade, and a Hoe a Hoe, and a Thief is a Thief regardless of his defenses.

As bikes continue to be a lucrative grey market these activities will continue. My bikes never leave my side, they have seen lock and key perhaps once in many many years. Then it was multiple locks and she was chained to some of her friends. If my bike can't go inside with me (we do behave when we enter another's place of business and act respectable) we politely take our business elsewhere.

Ebay needs to step up to the plate as well. They have been a pipeline for many a stolen bikes. They were involved in a half million dollar bike swindle last year. They need to be more responsible. Even after the criminals were captured by the authorities Ebay still had them listed for quite some time thereafter as listed sellers! The Ebay connection was in fact a principal source of discovery of the crimes.

Sorry for getting carried away...I will put my soap box away now.
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I had a bike stolen from Boulder around that time. Does anyone know the course of action? Call Boulder PD? Any way to get Ellison's long-term ebay history? Thanks, S
Called em - Boulder PD that is. They have a list of bikes, so if yours got stolen, call and they'll check it against the list. S
DSR said:
Called em - Boulder PD that is. They have a list of bikes, so if yours got stolen, call and they'll check it against the list. S
His ebay history goes back to mid September (with item links)

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