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One defendant pleads guilty, sentenced to 16 years in Colorado bike theft ring

Published September 7, 2022

BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — One person has been sentenced to 16 years in prison after pleading guilty to an organized crime charge involving smash-and-grab burglaries at Colorado bike shops last year.

The state attorney general indicted eight people last November resulting from an investigation the AG's office called "Operation Vicious Cycle." At a hearing last week Austin Butler, 23, was sentenced after pleading guilty to one count of violation of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act, one count of second-degree burglary, and one count of aggravated motor vehicle theft. In the original indictment Butler was charged with 25 counts. 

The grand jury indictment last year charged that Butler recruited participants in the crime ring. 

"Members of the Enterprise had specified roles and responsibilities Butler recruited burglary participants in the days leading up to each burglary. Often, these participants were friends and acquaintances of his. This was usually done by using Facebook messenger. Once a burglary crew was assembled, one or more of the participants would steal a vehicle, which was then used to surveil the chosen bike shop and commit the burglary," the indictment read. An indictment is an accusation and does not mean the defendant is guilty of the charges. 

The indictment also said that Butler had admitted to investigators that he had participated in several of the shop break-ins and vehicle thefts. 

According to the AG's office, four co-defendants in the case are scheduled for arraignment later this month.

"I am proud of our prosecutors' tireless work and collaboration with local law enforcement to hold the defendant accountable for the significant harm he caused to several individuals, businesses and non-profit agencies from this vehicle and bike theft criminal enterprise. We are committed to ensuring others charged in this criminal enterprise will be held fully responsible for their actions, and to sending the message that property theft will not be tolerated," Attorney General Phil Weiser said.

Prosecutors said the ring would steal vans and then drive them through the front windows of bike shops, load the vans with stolen bikes and then transfer the bikes to accomplices who would sell them and abandon the stolen vans. The crime spree affected bike shops on Colorado's Front Range, including the Denver and Boulder areas. All told, the eight individuals indicted were charged with 227 counts. The value of the stolen vehicles, stolen property, and property damage carried out from December 2019 until June 2020 was approximately $1.5 million.

Austin Butler, photo released by Colorado AG office.

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