CHONGQING, China - Fearing that the chic Benelli motorcycle that he intended to steal might not find a buyer, a man in south-western China offered it for sale online and secured a bidder before he went ahead with the theft.
The police of Chongqing city said they are investigating several other theft cases involving motorcycles, in which a 29-year-old surnamed Chen could be the culprit and might have employed the same "sell first, steal later" method.
In early March, Chen took the buyer of the Benelli and another man to the underground garage of a residential building which he had recently moved out of. Together, they pushed the motorcycle into a van and drove off, reported the Chongqing Evening Daily.
After several weeks of investigations, the police managed to track down everyone connected to the case, including Chen and those who had bought and resold the motorcycle for a profit.
The motorcycle's actual owner, surnamed Xiang, said he bought it for 39,800 yuan (S$8,560). But Chen auctioned it off at only 3,700 yuan.
According to the Chongqing Evening Daily, Chen had set his sights on the motorcycle from the time he had lived in the same building as Xiang.
After secretly taking pictures of the motorcycle, he posted them online with a notice that it was for sale.
With its price set much lower than the market rate, the Benelli initially attracted many inquiries, said the newspaper.
But when the potential buyers were told they would have to push it home themselves, their interest waned.
However, a few offered to introduce buyers. Through one of them, Chen found a willing buyer.
Apparently, the buyer did not know he was participating in a theft when he took over the motorcycle as Chen had disabled its alarm system beforehand.
Xiang, who reported the theft the following day to the police, learnt from a friend a month later that a motorcycle looking like the one he had lost was being sold online at a very low price.
Xiang later found the auctioneer who had posted the bid on behalf of two men.
The men told Xiang that they bought the motorcycle in neighbouring Sichuan province, and by tracing the many hands through which it had passed, the police finally got to Chen.
The Chongqing police said all the buyers might be charged with purchasing stolen property.
Get MyPaper for more stories.