Sting operation nets prolific Toronto bike thief
Sunday 24 August 2008
Among residents of the trendy art and design district in Toronto, it was hardly a secret that the bearded man who owned the Bike Clinic on Queen Street was a bit of a renegade. The police had an idea he might be up to no good too. But the day they finally raided his shop brought more than a few surprises. 2,865 of them in fact.
This is the staggering number of bicycles that detectives discovered stashed not just in the shop on two floors but in several other garages that its mysterious owner, Igor Kenk, had rented around the city.
What Mr Kenk seems to have been running all this time was a back-of-a-lorry enterprise the scope of which even Del Boy would have had trouble grasping. He must answer 58 charges of theft and drug possession. Two others have also been charged in connection with the case.
The police were spurred into action when bicycle thefts in Toronto surged in June. They put out bait – a bicycle on the street. Mr Kenk and a friend were seen passing by. The friend was later seen slicing the locks of two other bikes near by.
As he awaits his day in court, the people of Toronto have already given their verdict. Indeed Mr Kenk, who holds a Slovenian passport and has claimed to have worked for the KGB, may be the most hated man in the city. But what about all those bicycles? When the police first raided the Clinic in July they were barred from going inside by the fire department, for safety reasons.
So crammed was the second floor with two-wheelers, that firefighters were obliged to remove the windows and begin lowering bikes one by one to the street with a rope.
Finally, all the models were put inside an old police garage, the doors flung open and people told, “Come and get ’em”. There have been some tearful reunions. But the total reclaimed stands at fewer than 500, so the police are extending public collection until 5 September.
The twists of the case still have folk puzzled. Mr Kenk had seemed to some in the neighbourhood to represent a mostly benign throw-back to times before its gentrification, a man who was known occasionally to offer work to local down-and-outs including outpatients of a nearby mental clinic. He was even to be the subject of a documentary about his corner of Toronto. But then came his arrest and the discovery also of cocaine, crack cocaine and 15lb of marijuana. And he was found to live in one of its most expensive parts of the city, and had a highly esteemed concert pianist as his girlfriend, who also now faces charges.
But the biggest question is this: what in pedalling heaven was he planning to do with so many road-racers? He and his lawyers have claimed variously that he was preparing for an oil-shortage crisis and that he somehow saw himself as a protector of those stolen bicycles.
Or maybe he was simply waiting for the price of metals to rise to have them melted down.
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