Man pays $500 to get his stolen bikes back from pawn shop

A Montreal man had to pay a pawn shop $500 to get his two stolen bicycles back. The person who stole Gama's bikes had registered them as his own.

Régis Gama's stolen bicycles were found in a pawn shop in Montreal's east end

The bicycle parking area in the underground garage of Régis Gama's building. Gama's two bicycles were stolen in February and later tracked to a pawn shop in Montreal's east end, but Gama still had to pay to get his bikes back. (Radio-Canada)

Even though police found his two stolen bikes in a pawn shop four months after he had reported them missing, Régis Gama still had to pay $500 to get the bikes back.

Gama reported two bikes worth $3,000 had been stolen from the garage of his building on February 9th, and while he reported the theft to police, he told Radio-Canada he had "little hope" of getting the bikes back because he didn't know the serial numbers.

Then four months later, police called him to say they might have found his bikes at a pawn shop in Montreal's east end, and asked for some documents to verify that the bikes belonged to Gama. 

Gama's bikes were insured, and according to Pascal Côté, a commander with the SPVM, the insurance company had compensated Gama for the loss.

After verifying the documents, police told Gama the bicycles at the shop were his, but Gama would need to pay the pawn shop owner himself to get his bikes back because the insurance company declined to.

That's because the person took advantage of regulations around selling to pawn shops, and registered Gama's bicycles as his own before selling them. 

"Unfortunately, we understand the frustration of citizens who spot property belonging to them in a pawn shop, but the only way to obtain reparations is either to get reimbursed by insurers or to take the pawn shop owner to small claims court," said Côté.

A surveillance camera captured two people stealing Gama's bicycles from an underground parking garage. (Radio-Canada)

Pawn shop rules

Montreal has a bylaw that requires pawn shop owners to keep registries of goods, as well as contact information for sellers, and submit the previous day's transactions to police every morning by 10 a.m.

Anyone who tries to sell a bicycle at a pawn shop must provide a report proving police have checked the bicycle and that it hasn't been registered as stolen. 

In order to get around that rule, someone involved in the theft of Gama's bikes went to police and filled out a verification of property form, in order to declare the bicycles weren't stolen and certifying the person filling out the form as the owner.

In Gama's case, a sharp-eyed police officer made a connection between his theft report and the pawn shop register. Bicycles have to be held aside for 15 days before being put on sale, according to Côté. 

The officer notified Gama, but told him he would have to pay to get his property back, because the pawn shop owner had purchased the bikes legally from the person who had registered the bikes.

Police were able to use the information in the pawn shop register to track down the man who had registered the bicycles. The man later pleaded guilty to two charges of possession of stolen property.

Police say that only about one in ten bicycle thefts are reported, and on average, about 2000 thefts are reported a year. They encourage cyclists to register their serial numbers and to ensure the serial numbers are etched on their bike frames.

With files from Radio-Canada