Bike thief treads on bike shops

Visalia Detective warns bike shops of man who has made off with over $150,000 in high-end mountain bikes since last fall

By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN

VISALIA – Stolen bicycles don’t usually make the news, but when you are stealing $5,000 mountain bikes people tend to take notice.

Marlon Markham, 32, attempted to purchase a bicycle with a stolen credit card from Visalia Cyclery and Sierra Bicycle Werks on Jan. 14, 2019. Photo courtesy of the
Visalia Police Department.

Marlon Markham has made a career of stealing high-dollar mountain bikes of late using stolen credit cards and fake identities to buy them from small bike shops up and down the state. The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office issued a felony arrest warrant for the 32-year-old Markham last month after the Visalia Police Department and Valley small businesses helped link him to more than 25 crimes.

Detective Brian Young with the Visalia Police Department’s Property Crimes Unit said he first became aware of the pattern in January. Young had just recovered a bicycle stolen from a woman who had been visiting from Nebraska and went into Visalia Cyclery, 1829 W. Caldwell Ave., to mail it back to her on Jan. 15. While there, employees said Markham had come into the store the day before in an attempt to use a stolen credit card number to purchase a high-end mountain bike. Aware of Markham and the scam, employees told him to leave. When he left, employees contacted Sierra Bicycle Werks, 123 E. Main St., and warned store managers he may be headed there. Shortly after getting off the phone, Markham attempted to use the same card information to purchase an expensive bike there as well.

The bike shops were aware of Markham thanks to an email from Vanessa McCracken, owner of Sunnyside Bicycles in Fresno, stating Markham had used a fake credit card to steal a $4,100 bike from her store in October. McCracken discovered the fraud over a month later when the illegal purchase was reported to the credit card agency. The arrest warrant is based on McCracken’s report and the investigation by Young.

“Criminals find a loophole in the system and then exploit it,” Young said. “He also knows a lot about bikes, so he plays the part.”

During his investigation, Young discovered Markham had hit at least 25 businesses between Huntington Beach and the Oregon border and made off with more than $150,000 in stolen bicycles since last fall.

“Many large agencies don’t have the time to investigate property theft, even though the amounts make them felonies,” Young said. “Basically, this guy got greedy and entered a jurisdiction in Visalia where small agencies still have the resources to deal with those types of crimes.”

Just last week, the Visalia Police Department issued the following statement to the Bicycle Retailer and Industry News trade publication: “If he enters your bike shop, do not confront him. Instead, call the police and stall him until they arrive. Give the police his name (Marlon Ray Markham, date of birth 1/16/1987) and let them know he is an extraditable wanted felon in Fresno County. His information will be in the NCIC, and more felony warrants are pending in counties throughout the state.”

Markham is described as being 5’9”, weighing 185 pounds with brown eyes, and black hair, including a full beard. He typically wears a construction vest to appear like a temporary employee working in an area during fire season.

“There are so many people who are in and out of communities this time of year, the vest helps him blend in as a temporary construction worker,” Det. Young said.

Young said Markham is known to frequent the Bay Area and Central Valley. He’s used a number of different aliases in attempting to purchase bikes with fraudulent credit cards but doesn’t expect he will be returning to the Visalia area.

Young is urging any business believed to have had contact with Markham to contact him at 559-713-4574. Retailers can also contact their local law enforcement agency and reference Case #193996 with the Visalia Police Department.

Visalia Crime Logs

Monday, July 1
At 5:57 a.m. officers were dispatched to Pride and Russell in regards to a suspicious person looking into vehicles in the area. Upon arrival, officers searched the area and were able to locate the suspect vehicle mentioned in the call for service. After making contact with a resident, officers were able to view home surveillance footage showing the suspect attempting to break into vehicles at the location. A description of the suspect was broadcast to assisting officers and they were able to locate Cash Costa leaving the area. Costa was positively identified from the surveillance footage and he was taken into custody without incident. Costa was booked at the Tulare County Pretrial Facility on multiple charges.\

Saturday, June 29
At 2 a.m. the Visalia Police Department received a report of a possible commercial burglary in progress at the Visalia Mall. A citizen reported hearing glass breaking, and observed a subject removing property from a store. The citizen was able to provide a description of the vehicle involved and which way it went. A responding Visalia Police Department K-9 Officer located the vehicle near Beech and County Center. Upon seeing the officer the driver immediately attempted to evade the officer and a vehicle pursuit was initiated. The pursuit ended when the suspect abandoned the vehicle in the 600 block of S. Demaree and fled on foot. A K-9 was deployed and assisted in the capture of the suspect. The suspect in this case has been identified as Frankie Avina, 41. The Visalia Police Department Property Crimes Unit responded and took over the investigation. As a result of this incident approximately $7,500 dollars in property was recovered from the suspect vehicle. Avina was also subsequently identified as the subject responsible for a commercial burglary at the same store on June 16 which resulted in a loss of approximately $10,000. Avina was ultimately transported and booked into the Tulare County Adult Pretrial Facility for numerous charges related to the burglaries and the vehicle pursuit.

Wednesday, June 26
At approximately 10:30 p.m., officers responded to a report of shots fired on the 4100 block of E. Laurel. As officers were responding, a victim suffering from multiple gunshot wounds was located by witnesses. The adult male victim was transported to the Kaweah Delta Medical Center where he died as a result of his injuries. During the course of this investigation, detectives determined that the suspects who committed the crime were driving a black Chevrolet Colorado with chrome rims. This vehicle was located near Plaza Dr. and 198 by officers from the Visalia Police Department. The traffic stop on the vehicle was eventually conducted in the 30000 block of Effie Dr. in Goshen with the assistance of the Tulare County Sheriffs Office. Upon conducting the stop, the driver was immediately detained while two others fled on foot. The first subject was apprehended with the assistance of a Visalia Police Department K-9. The second subject was able to flee the scene but was later contacted with a loaded firearm in an unrelated traffic stop by officers from the California Highway Patrol. The name and age of the victim is not being released pending notification of the family. As a result of this investigation, this homicide is believed to be gang motivated and all three subjects were booked at Tulare County Juvenile Hall for Homicide and Gang Enhancement.

Tuesday, June 25
At 11:26 a.m., officers from the department’s anti-gang unit stopped a vehicle in the area of W. Sunnyview Avenue and N. Oak Park Ct. for a mechanical violation. Gustavo Adolfo Ramirez, who is a convicted Felon, was contacted in the vehicle and found to be in possession of a sawed off shotgun and ammunition. Ramirez was arrested without incident and booked at the Tulare County Pretrial Facility on the above listed charges.

Monday, June 24
At approximately 6:00 p.m., Visalia PD officers were contacted at the police department by an elderly female who said she was in her residence on at about 5 a.m. when her son Anthony Sembrano broke into her residence from a living room window. Sembrano then went into his mother’s bedroom and demanded she give him her phone and bus pass. When the victim refused Sembrano became irate and pushed the victim onto the bed. Sembrano then began to fight with the victim and ripped the purse from her hands. Sembrano took the cell phone and bus pass from the purse and fled the area on foot. The victim was not injured. Sembrano was found to be in-custody at the Tulare County Main Jail on unrelated charges. He was interviewed and then booked on the above listed fresh charges as well.

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