OAKLAND (CBS SF) – A parolee with ten prior felony convictions, eight of them burglary-related, has been arrested and charged in connection with the theft of a Gold Rush-era jewelry box that was taken from the Oakland Museum of California in January, authorities said Tuesday.
Oakland police Lt. Oliver Cunningham said Andre Taray Franklin, 45, of Hayward, is only charged in connection with the theft of the jewelry box, which is worth about $800,000, on Jan. 9 but he’s also a suspect in a Nov. 9 break-in when gold nuggets and Gold Rush-era pistols were taken. He said the investigation into the matter is “extremely active.”
The jewelry box, which was created between 1869 and 1878 by San Francisco goldsmith A. Andrews, has been recovered and was displayed at the museum today next to the podium where the arrest of Franklin was discussed by Cunningham, police Chief Howard Jordan, Mayor Jean Quan and museum director Lori Fogarty.
Fogarty said the gold nuggets and the pistols haven’t been recovered at this time.
She said, “It is a happy day for Oakland and the state of California. We have our beautiful and historic jewelry box back in the museum and a suspect in custody.”
Jordan said, “We’re bringing back valuable art to Oakland and we’re very excited about it.”
Quan said the jewelry box is “part of our physical history and is priceless to us.”
She said children who visit the museum like to look at the jewelry box “because gold fascinates them.”
Officer Michael Igualdo said he and other officers worked hard at apprehending Franklin and recovering the jewelry box because “it was part of the Gold Rush and our American history and heritage and shows that we’re a country of opportunity.”
Igualdo said he and other investigators were inspired by the 2004 film “National Treasure,” which was about a historian and amateur cryptologist searching for a lost treasure of precious metals, jewelry, artwork and other artifacts.
Cunningham said Igualdo got a warrant for Franklin’s arrest for burglary and violating his parole three weeks ago and a patrol officer arrested him in the 600 block of East 15th Street in Oakland around 11:20 a.m. Sunday.
The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office charged Franklin today with one count of receiving stolen property for having possession of the jewelry box.
Prosecutors said the box is valued at $805,000 and also charged him with a clause for taking or damaging an item valued at more than $200,000.
In addition, the district attorney charged Franklin with having ten prior felony convictions dating back to 1987.
Prosecutors said he has four prior convictions for second-degree commercial burglary, three for receiving stolen property, one each for petty theft with prior convictions, unlawful sexual intercourse and the unlawful driving or taking of a vehicle.
Franklin, who is being held without bail at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, was arraigned this afternoon in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland.
Fogarty said the museum is “anxious” to display the jewelry box again soon but isn’t ready to announce the date.
She said there the museum had implemented “heightened security” for the jewelry box before it was stolen but has increased its security even more since then and is “committed to this never happening again.”
Fogarty also said museum officials are “very hopeful” that the gold nuggets and the pistols also will be recovered.
The Oakland Museum of California is located at 1000 Oak St. in Oakland.
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