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Teenage bicycle thieves jailed for Italian job

Two teenagers were sentenced Friday to 18 months in prison for their role in the theft of 22 bicycles from the Italian team during the track world championships in Roubaix in October.

The men convicted in a Lille court were identified as Valerijo H., a 19-year-old Italian, and Franko T., an 18-year-old French citizen. 

On the night of October 22-23, the 22 bikes, related equipment and a coffee maker were stolen from a truck in the parking lot of the Italian team’s hotel between Roubaix and Lille. The door had been forced.  

The hi-tech bikes were worth an estimated 10,000 euros ($11,600) each.

The total value of the haul was initially estimated at 400,000 euros, but almost all of the material has since been found in Romania, where four more individuals have been arrested. 

Investigators quickly identified Franko T.’s fingerprints in the truck, and telephone records led them to Valerijo H. 

Searches of the homes of the defendants in Lille and nearby Lomme found packaging in Italian team colours, a van used in the robbery and a coffee maker identical to the one stolen.

The two defendants said they were approached that evening near a park where they were inhaling laughing gas, by “a Romanian” who offered them 200 euros to “unload and load bikes”.

They told the court on Friday that they went with “this man and his nephew” to collect the bikes from a van that was “already opened”. 

Their employer asked them to keep the bikes “for a few hours” then came to recover them the next day. 

The lawyers for the two defendants said their clients were scapegoats. 

“You know seasoned thieves who keep their phones with them, keep wrapping paper and a coffee pot? They are amateurs,” said Charles Cogniot, the lawyer for Valerijo T.

He lamented that “we do not have the identity” of the other protagonists.

Stephane Bulteau, who represented Franko T. said the two youngsters “should not pay for the shortcomings of the investigation” and emphasised their “unpreparedness”. 

The prosecution had sought 30 months in prison for this theft committed “within the framework of an extremely well-functioning organisation” and said the defendants had “already been convicted on several occasions for acts of theft”.

Many of the Italian team had to race on replacement bikes on the last two days of the five-day competition. 

Elia Viviani still won the closing elimination race but Simone Consonni and Michele Scartezzini were edged out by Denmark in the men’s madison earlier on the final day.

Italy finished the competition with 10 medals, one less than Germany, who topped the final table. 

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