Residents say Colonel Sanders, Ashton Kutcher look-alikes stealing bikes

Residents are saying the alleged thieves look like Colonel Sanders and Ashton Kutcher.
(Image courtesy of Newport Beach Police Department)

NEWPORT BEACH — Residents of a condominium complex near Hoag Hospital suspect that two men who look like Colonel Sanders and Ashton Kutcher are behind a series of bicycle thefts and car break-ins there.

Villa Balboa residents say that some 15 bikes have been stolen from subterranean parking lots around the complex during the past four months.

Using surveillance cameras in the garages, members of Villa Balboa’s safety committee began reviewing taped footage of the alleged thefts and making DVDs — at $160 each — through an independent security company to send to police.

On the tapes, residents have seen a Ford Explorer with a handicap parking placard and a “Support the Troops” bumper sticker driving around, mostly between about 2:50 a.m. and 3:30 a.m, when the alleged crimes happened.

The cameras, however, were not able to catch a full license plate number.

The “Colonel Sanders” suspect looks older than 50, has a goatee, carries a cane and is heavyset, while Kutcher’s doppelgänger is less distinct, with black hair and a dark jacket.

In the videos, the suspects test door handles of parked cars, possibly looking to steal items from within unlocked vehicles.

Last week, police circulated fliers with photos of the suspects to the community, said Newport Beach police spokeswoman Kathy Lowe.

Newport police have received four reports of bicycle thefts from the complex since June, but no such thefts were reported in April or May, Lowe said.

Residents say, however, that the number of thefts is much higher.

Villa Balboa resident Dean Norman, 49, said three bikes have been stolen from his family alone: an Electra, a Nishiki and vintage Schwinn — altogether worth about $700. The Electra and Schwinn were locked in front of the family’s parking spot, and the Nishiki was stolen from the community bike parking area.

Some of the thefts take place because of lax security precautions taken by residents, Norman said. In other cases, residents lock their bikes but to no avail.

Norman said in one incident, a resident locked a bike with a U-lock to a chain-link fence, only to discover later that thieves cut away the fence in order to steal the bike.

On Monday, police held a bike licensing event at the complex, which led to forty bikes getting registered, Lowe said.

Lowe stressed the importance of registering a bike so that police can return the stolen property if it is found.

On Wednesday police are scheduled to hold an event at the Newport Pier between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. It will offer free licensing, as well as information on home security, and bike and boardwalk safety.