Remember Bike Bandit? If you’ve purchased any motorcycle parts or accessories over the past decade or so, you’ve probably placed at least one order with the online retailer. Bike Bandit was once one of the better places to get both OEM and aftermarket parts and to peruse parts diagrams. Now, though, the mighty have fallen; taken out by competition, vulture capitalism, and, apparently, some funny business with the books.
The company quietly declared bankruptcy in February, 2022, but as a story published by our friends over at Jalopnik reveals, there’s more going on here. Slog through Bike Bandit’s online reviews or Better Business Bureau complaints—there are now nearly 400 of the latter, as of June 1, 2022—and you’ll soon see similar patterns of customer complaints repeating over and over.
Many go like this: Customer thinks they’ve bought X and Y parts for their bike through Bike Bandit’s website, is charged for the parts, and never receives them. Customer repeatedly tries to contact Bike Bandit over periods of weeks or months, and might eventually get their money back if they’re lucky. Sometimes, customers have to involve their credit card companies; sometimes not. Sometimes, it’s past the credit card company’s chargeback window and customers just have to eat that money and go find the parts they need somewhere else.
On May 31, 2022, Jalopnik published a brilliant piece of investigative reporting by Mercedes Streeter, and you really need to take some time (and probably some caffeine) to read the whole thing, which we’ll link in our sources. It also includes links to the full text of the bankruptcy documents referenced here. In the piece, Streeter unravels the following publicly available facts:
- That Vey’s Bandit, LLC (the name of the business entity that has owned Bike Bandit since 2017) filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the Southern District of California on February 7, 2022
- That, according to the bankruptcy filing, the company owes sales taxes for 2021 in 36 states
- That, according to the bankruptcy filing, the creditors to which it owes the most money are its owner and its CFO; assorted other creditors mostly include a host of service providers and vendors
- That, according to the bankruptcy filing, Bike Bandit has taken approximately $646,000 from customers for orders that it knowingly had no way to fulfill, and has provided them no recourse to get their money back
It’s an impressively tangled and twisty web that involves multiple business entities and individuals, and one that Streeter wrote took months to untangle, along with the help of an experienced bankruptcy attorney. The court-appointed Trustee—who was assigned to work independently on behalf of Bike Bandit’s creditors—made his misgivings plain in a document related to the case that was recently made public. Please note here that “the Debtor” refers to Bike Bandit.
“In Fall 2021, the Debtor’s management ruminated on plans to arrange a friendly foreclosure sale of the Debtor’s assets and eventual resumption of operations post-foreclosure. This appears to have evolved into a plan to close the business, compel desired responsive actions by the Debtor’s secured creditors, and later re-acquire Debtor’s assets at little or no cost. Operations staff were terminated beginning in late November 2021. The majority of the administrative staff were terminated in early December 2021,” reads the Trustee’s petition to the court to issue subpoenas for relevant documents to the Debtor and several related parties.
That Trustee petition is a truly fascinating and horrifying read. While the actual bankruptcy document is as dry as you’d probably expect, if you take time to read through only one related to this case, this Trustee petition may just light your hair on fire. It includes such absolute bangers as this:
“While additional discovery is needed, there is already ample evidence that the Debtor’s sworn bankruptcy papers filed in the case are factually untrue in material respects. Many creditors were omitted from the Debtor’s sworn bankruptcy papers. For example, all of Debtor’s consumer creditors, many (possibly thousands) of whom deposited money with the Debtor that the Debtor later absconded with and others who purchased gift cards or earned “points” in a rewards program Debtor operated prepetition are totally omitted from the Debtor’s sworn bankruptcy papers,” it reads.
“It remains unclear why the Debtor continued to operate its business well past the point of insolvency and, even worse, continued to accept online orders when it was apparent the Debtor would not be able to fulfill those orders. The Trustee is informed and believes that the Debtor contemplated filing bankruptcy as early as February 2021 and was unable to pay its debt as they came due no later than by that time. Despite these facts, the Debtor continued to accept online orders and charge consumers credit cards at least until weeks or days before the petition date, for orders that it was knowingly unable to fulfill from its available inventory. The Trustee also believes that the Debtor collected sales taxes on these phantom sales that were never returned to the consumer or remitted to the proper taxing authorities,” it continues.
Here’s a cleansing capybara gif to help lower your blood pressure.
As we frequently like to point out at RideApart, there are riders everywhere, in all kinds of professions. I’m not any type of legal expert, let alone one who is well-versed in the nuances of bankruptcy law. As the Jalopnik investigation (in consultation with a bankruptcy attorney) seems to conclude, the evidence presented so far appears to show an awful lot of self-dealing, as well as an attempt to cash out.
That’s ultimately something for the Trustee’s investigation and the court to decide—and again, we’re not legal experts. However, it’s worth noting that Chapter 7 bankruptcy in particular is defined as follows by the United States Courts:
“This chapter of the Bankruptcy Code provides for “liquidation”—the sale of a debtor’s nonexempt property and the distribution of the proceeds to creditors.”
One line that may stick with you from the initial bankruptcy petition, should you choose to read it, is this: After any administrative expenses are paid, no funds will be available to unsecured creditors. That’s a box that’s been checked under the heading “Debtor’s estimation of available funds.” For what it’s worth, everyone who placed an unfulfilled order on the Bike Bandit website, whose money is part of that $646,000 enumerated in the court filings, is considered an unsecured creditor.
Screenshot captured on June 1, 2022.
As an addendum, Affinity Development Group—the name of the entity that purchased Bike Bandit in 2017—received a federal coronavirus Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan in the amount of $4,181,780 in April, 2020. It has since been forgiven in the amount of $4,230,916 (loan plus accrued interest).