Boise police say 19-year-old Michael Lawrence stole 30 to 50 bikes to sell on websites like Craigslist over the last few months.
It was earlier this week that police figured out that total included the 13 professional racing bikes stolen from a locked trailer outside a hotel May 23, Sgt. Randy Buzzini said.
Officers were about to present their case to Ada County prosecutors for an arrest warrant when they got a call early Thursday morning.
Lawrence was in custody after being caught trying to steal $800 worth of car tires from the Les Schwab store at 1805 S. Cole Road, police said.
Police finally had their suspect someone officers say used tools to break through locks and doors to steal expensive bikes all over town. Police say they are trying to figure out whether Lawrence was a one-man crime spree or had help.
This is a big-time arrest our officers worked really hard and took the time to build a really strong case, Buzzini said Thursday. We just narrowed it down to (Lawrence) earlier this week.
I feel the frustration from the cycling community out there. Bikes were being stolen this spring. We were walking a line. ... How much (information) can you put out there without tipping the suspect off?
Lawrence is being held in the Ada County Jail on 13 counts of grand theft (for the Exergy Tour bike thefts) and one count of burglary (for the Les Schwab break-in) on a $250,000 bond.
Ada County prosecutors described Lawrence in court Friday as "a serial burglar and thief" and said he is part of "a multi-state criminal theft ring" who stole bikes and then sold them on Craigslist in Portland.
Police say more charges are possible.
Buzzini said police were able to ID Lawrence as a suspect through surveillance, subpoenas, search warrants and Internet work.
When someone broke into a locked trailer and took 13 bikes belonging to the California-based Tibco-To The Top racing team, it was just one day before the inaugural Exergy Tour was scheduled to begin in Boise.
The teams bikes, worth more than $100,000, were found the next morning locked together on the Boise State campus.
Officers suspect Lawrence dumped the Tibco-To The Top bikes on campus to store them essentially hiding them in plain sight among lots of other bikes intending to remove them later, Buzzini said. Its unclear how they were moved from the Holiday Inn off Vista Avenue to campus.
The publicity and investigation from that case helped officers zero in on Lawrence, Buzzini said. They also say the publicity caused Lawrence to pull back from bike thefts and concentrate on other burglaries.
Lawrence was arrested Thursday after officers were sent to the Les Schwab store just after 1 a.m. to investigate an alarm. A glass window was broken, and four tires were found in a nearby field as was Lawrence, police said.
Lawrence has an eye for expensive bikes, police say. They say they have evidence Lawrence stole five bikes worth more than $10,000 from businesses on Vista Avenue in early June. Police found two of those bikes Wednesday night, locked together by Saint Lukes Boise Medical Center, each worth about $3,500.
When police searched Lawrences home Thursday morning, officers found computers and TVs reported stolen recently from area businesses, according to reports. There is no mention in police reports of officers finding any bikes at his house.
Police believe Lawrence was trying to sell bikes on online classified sites like Craigslist, but not at local pawn shops, Buzzini said. Police are also trying to figure out if Lawrence had help selling stolen bikes outside of Boise.
Police have recovered about 10 bikes in addition to the Tibco bikes and are trying to find the others.
Its difficult, for lots of reasons, to divulge publically what our officers are doing to solve crimes like these, Buzzini said. We can say these thefts have been a priority. Im happy to say (the officers) hard work is paying off.
Patrick Orr: 377-6219, Twitter: @IDS_Orr