By Murray Weiss, DNAinfo Columnist / Criminal Justice Editor
THE BRONX -- Seven luxury motorcycles seized by the NYPD when it smashed a massive international bike theft ring this summer have vanished from a police facility where they were stored, DNAinfo.com New York has learned.
The stunning "Gone In 60 Seconds" heist from the NYPD's Auto Crime and Narcotics Division location at 500 Abbott St. on a dead end block on the Bronx and Mt. Vernon border was discovered Monday.
The lot is not heavily protected, but does have a security guard booth near the entrance. It is apparently not manned by NYPD personnel.
The embarassing theft immediately triggered an NYPD Internal Affairs investigation amid fears of an inside job.
One source speculated that remnants of the international bike trafficking ring tracked their bikes via GPS devices on them to the Bronx site where they were vulnerable to be stolen again. The box truck was left behind.
It was unclear how the thieves broke into the box truck and how they took off without being spotted.
"How they off-load that many motorcycles without ...being seen is insane," the source said.
The missing motorcycles were part of a compliment of 63 vehicles worth $500,000 that were seized during a 17-month, multi-agency investigation spearheaded by the NYPD Auto Crime Division and the Manhattan District Attorney's Rackets Bureau which included several federal agencies.
The probe culminated in the arrests of 33 suspects who authorities said were responsible for virtually all the motorcycle thefts in the Big Apple.
"These criminals have a magic act," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a press conference July 25 announcing the bust at Police Headquarters where more than a dozen of the bikes were on display, along with an array of confiscated firearms.
"They would make motorcycles disappear and guns appear on the streets of our city," Kelly said.
It was unclear whether any of the bikes shown off by Kelly that day wound up in the Bronx lot.
Kelly explained that some of the bikes were sold intact to dealers in the U.S., while others were dismantled and sold in Caribbean countries and in Africa.
"The streets served as an outdoor showroom where the crews went shopping," he said.
All the bikes seized by the NYPD were supposed to end up in their Auto Crime Division facility in Queens, sources said.
It was not clear why this group of motorcycles wound up stashed in the box truck.
The stolen motorcycle probe began in Lower Manhattan with the theft of a single Yamaha motorcycle in TriBeca in the Spring of 2011.
Investigators soon found a link to an organized network of criminals who were also stealing motorcycles in Brooklyn and Queens.
They also discovered that the ring was peddling guns in the city that they had purchased in the south, and embarked on a full-scale probe that included undercover cops, visual surveillance and electronic eavesdropping.
The well-organized criminal ring sometimes photographed unmarked police cars in neighborhoods where they were eyeing bikes they wanted to steal.
They even dispatched what Kelly described as "blocker cars" to divert the attention of the police by driving erratically if officers were seen in the vicinity where they were stealing a motorcycle.
The ring -- with suspects from Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island with nicknames like "Moron," "Jersey Dred" and "Jackie Legs" -- also were involved in car insurance fraud. One of the suspects even used his grandmother as a lookout.