Monday, July 4, 2016, 09:40 AM
Posted by Administrator
Most readers know we have another business....renting motor scooters. Up until a year or two ago, until the City of West Palm Beach decided to compete with us by putting a bicycle rental rack virtually outside our door, we also rented bicycles. We never particularly sold bicycles, but, we were a dealer for a couple of brands. This allowed us to buy bicycles at wholesale.

This morning, I got a call from a friend of mine in New York. "Steve," she said "by any chance were any of the bicycles you sold us stolen?" Two or three years ago, I shipped her two the unopened factory that she would have bikes available for her house renters on Fire Island. The bikes had come from the factory (in China, by ship, by truck, by UPS).

Her story was that she had received a call from her "real estate broker" (the person, I guess, who arranges her rentals) who said that the police had come to where the renters had ridden, cut the locks and impounded the bikes because they were stolen.

A few years ago, I had the Sunrise (Florida) police department retrieve a stolen bike for me that I had seen advertised, two years after the theft in WPB, on Craigslist (weird looking bike...easy to spot...reported to WPBPD at the time of the theft with the serial number). They were very helpful (WPBPD was not). Sunrise sent an officer to the Craigslist advertisers house and picked up the bike. I was told he claimed he bought it at an auction at the Sunrise Swap Shop/Flea Market. I picked it up from them a few days later.

And, really, if the CL advertiser had bought it for anywhere near fair market value, it was now his bike......not mine. So, the cops taking it was unfair.

The rule is that a "bona fide purchaser for value" IS the owner. If you buy something for what it is worth (more or less) and you didn't know (or have reason to know) it was stolen you ARE the owner (free from any claim of the real-owner/theft-victim). Find jewelry that was stolen from your house in a pawn shop? It probably isn't yours, anymore. Why? The BFP idea is based on a public policy that says: Let's make business transactions easy! Don't worry about whether the seller owns long as you don't big-time underpay or do the purchase transaction in a back alley, it won't matter if it is'll be the real, official owner.

UNLESS, of course, you knew or had reason to know the item was stolen. If you big-time should have been able to guess that gives you notice; cars and trucks have titles so you ought to have a look at that; houses have recorded deeds and people living it isn't hard to figure out if your seller owns what he/she is selling. Bought your bulldozer from a junkie behind a gas station at 3:00AM? You be the judge.

Anyway, back to the Fire Island bicycles...... There doesn't appear to be a national registry of stolen bike serial numbers (really, there is, but it is private/commercial, costs money to register, and doesn't have a convincing website). So, how did the bicycles I sold get reported stolen? I don't know. My working theory: Two respectable looking white people told a cop "Those are our bikes."

Note: I wrote "white people" because:
-I have been told by more than one black person that they were stopped by the police thinking the bicycle they were riding (their bike) was stolen. No white person has ever told me this.
-The night before last, on Clematis St. in downtown West Palm Beach, we watched, during dinner at Duffys, three (3) (III) police officers have an encounter with a middle-aged black man. It seemed that the first cop on the scene questioned whether the man was the owner of a bicycle, locked to a bike rack. The man appeared to produce a key and unlock the bicycle......which seemed to be a whole lot of proof that he owned it....yet the cops did not let him walk away for several minutes after. I have never seen a similar incident with a white person.

To be continued? Maybe.
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