My bike was stolen from the downtown DC on nov 11 2017. It was locked and was stolen in the middle of the day. I had put a bluetooth device, more specifically Tile in the seat post of the bike. I figured it may help me locate my bike if its ever stolen or something. Someone with the app has to be in a proximity of the bike for it to send a signal.

Anyways after it was stolen there was no signal for months, and now it was the app says the bike was found in Compalapa Guatamala.

I know i will never recover the bike, but I am wondering what the possibilities are of how a stolen bike in DC ends up in central america? enter image description here

  • I would be suspicious that this is some sort of scam. But certainly there is a surplus of bikes in the US, and so I would not be surprised if many are shipped off to South America. Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 2:15
  • How much did you spend on the Tile thing, that might have been spent on a better lock ?
    – Criggie
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 7:17
  • 2
    I'm sorry your bike got stolen but I don't see an answerable question, here. All we could do is speculate. Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 7:55
  • 1
    had an extra tile... i had a very expensive lock..
    – nolawi
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 11:15
  • The samw way Dutch and German bikes move to Poland (mostly). A van comes, van loads and van leaves. Commented Nov 2, 2023 at 16:53

4 Answers 4


There is a large community of people from or born to people from Central America that live in the DC area. The largest group has ties to El Salvador. Source: https://www.usnews.com/news/cities/articles/2019-08-26/why-certain-immigrant-communities-thrive-in-washington-dc

MS-13 has a significant presence in Northern Virginia and DC and that gang has ties to Guatemala. It isn’t surprising that a nice stolen bike would show up there.


In my area (the Netherlands, near the coast) there are regularly boats with loads of cheap looking bikes on the deck.
Sometimes those are legally bought from bikes found and reported to the police and bikes left on the streets even after a removal warning and not claimed.

But other times the bikes on are stolen. And when a whole series of bikes is stolen in one go, the local talk is asking whether there is a boat about to leave or has just left.

Not sure that happened in your case as well but I would not be surprised.

  • I was wondering about something like that - a legitimate export of scrap metal bikes with some valuable ones hidden underneath. But that seems like a lot of work and organisation
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 20:51
  • a person of Guatemalan descent found my bike improperly locked and took it home and shipped it to family member- am thinking
    – nolawi
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 1:00

"You're not in Guatamala now Dr Ropata" (Opening line from a TV show that has been running 25 years

Conspiracy theorist here. Maybe the bike is not in Guatamala. Could be an mistake, or that that Tile noticed you bike was stolen and made up a report that its in a location far far away. As the veracity of the report can never be proved, they appear to be doing what they claim on the box to do. Maybe someone found the Tile in the seat tube and posted it to Guatamala for a joke, or to put you off the idea of ever finding your bike.

  • 6
    Transporting stolen bikes to distant cities or out of the country before fencing is standard practice in the USA, so it being in Guatemala is definitely possible. What's not possible is the OP seeing it ever again. Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 1:44
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    @whatsisname Completely standard in Europe, too, where the idea of "to another country" sounds less dramatic. Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 10:31
  • ita all a possibility.
    – nolawi
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 19:59

There is a whole industry in Central America wherein men are hired drive a truck filled with stuff from the United States down to countries south of Mexico. The cargo may be legal merchandise, stolen goods, or a mix of both. Washington D.C. could easily be part of the transmigrante network.

Read a description of the scheme, excerpted from a long, harrowing story of one Colorado Guatemalan family's involvement:

Drive along the highways of south Texas, or in Mexico’s eastern states of Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Tabasco, and they’re hard to miss: caravans of used passenger vehicles, usually old pickup trucks, heading southbound toward Central America. Oftentimes, the used autos are piled high with secondhand goods, such as washing machines and motorbikes, and they’re typically hauling a second passenger vehicle behind them with torn pieces of duct tape spelling out “In Tow” on a rear hitch or window. The drivers of these vehicles are transmigrantes, a term derived from a special visa program that the Mexican government devised to allow goods and vehicles to move overland from the United States to Central America along designated highways and without drivers having to pay high import-export fees.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the idea behind the program was to allow families in the United States to move—or transmigrate—across Mexico to Central America while not imposing heavy customs duties on items they brought along with them. Other times, individuals from the United States use the visa to personally transport goods (which they’re not allowed to sell in Mexico) to family members in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, often during the holiday season. Over the past three decades, though, an entire industry of freelance truckers has arisen around the program and its tax loopholes.

  • 2
    I live in Texas and see these trucks on the road all the time.
    – Adam Rice
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 14:53

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