The Texas Parks and Wildlife agency arrested longtime fugitive James J. LeBelle, age 45, on Saturday, March 3, after a pair of vacationing mountain bikers recognized his face from numerous accounts of fraudulent behavior.
LeBelle is best known in the RV industry for embezzling more than $100,000 from Marshall, Mich.-based specialty distributor BR Wholesale RV & Marine, where he served as president. After 25 years of business, the supplier was unable to recover from his crimes, and closed its doors in June 2015. LeBelle received a five-year probation sentence in September 2014 for the crime.
Since then, he has racked up arrest warrants across the U.S. for reportedly scamming bike shops. Calhoun County, Mich., placed a warrant for his arrest without bond soon after. His modus operandi was reportedly defrauding shop owners by passing worthless checks. While the exact number of how many shops were scammed is not known, authorities issued fugitive warrants for LeBelle in the following areas for similar crimes:
- Twin Falls, Idaho – Issuing a check without funds.
- Rockville, Md. – Bad check issued with nonsufficient funds.
- Santa Fe, N.M. – Issuing a worthless check and fraud.
Bike shop owners across the U.S. began to notice some patterns as fellow proprietors wrote Facebook posts about being scammed. The latest spate of crimes that caused a stir on social media took place in the South. University Bicycle Center in Tampa, Fla., wrote a lengthy Facebook post detailing how LeBelle stole a bike worth $7,500.
LeBelle traveled to Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas where he struck a conversation with a couple mountain biking for the week. One of them recognized his face and the bike, and reported it to the wildlife state park officer, according to a police report and Facebook post, who then alerted local authorities.
Currently, LeBelle is being held in jail for theft of property in addition to the warrants listed above which have no set bond. LeBelle is extraditable.