OAKLAND (AP) — A parolee is facing federal charges in the theft of a valuable Gold Rush-era jewelry box from the Oakland Museum of California, authorities said.
Andre Taray Franklin apparently stole the artifact valued at $805,000 earlier this year, sold it to a business owner for $1,500 and then threatened to report the owner to police if he didn't give him another $10,000, according to a criminal complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court in Oakland.
"I can prove you are the one that has the (expletive) they want," Franklin allegedly said in text message to the owner on Feb. 23. "So I want 10,000 or I will send these photos to the police you better tex (sic) me back within the hour on your reply if not you will make the news tonight!"
Oakland police arrested Franklin earlier this month and the owner later identified him in a photo lineup, authorities said.
Alameda County prosecutors initially charged Franklin, 45, with receiving stolen property after his March 3 arrest in connection with the theft of the 19th century gold-encrusted box that was stolen from the museum on Jan. 7. It depicts images of early California history and was originally a wedding anniversary gift from a San Francisco pioneer to his wife in the 1800s.
Franklin allegedly smashed a glass panel on a door and reached through to open the door, FBI Special Agent Beth Alvarez wrote in an affidavit. Franklin then headed straight for the California Gold Rush exhibit and used a black and orange ax to smash two glass display cases, Alvarez said.
Franklin took a miners' scale used to weigh gold, as well as the jewelry box, which is about the size of a small shoebox and weighs about three pounds.
Franklin placed both items in a backpack and fled, Alvarez continued. The burglary lasted approximately one minute.
The incident, however, was captured on the museum's surveillance system, and authorities believe that Franklin matches the physical description of the burglar, the affidavit said.
Federal prosecutors say Franklin stole the box after authorities traced his DNA on the ax he apparently used in the theft. His sneakers also allegedly matched the footprints found outside the museum as well.
Franklin was wearing the same sneakers that he allegedly had on during the theft, authorities said. Oakland police discovered Franklin's cellphone which contained a series of text messages between him and the business owner he sold the box to as well as the owner's address, the affidavit said.
Franklin is being held without bail at the Alameda County jail. It is not known if he has a lawyer.
Franklin, who has 10 prior felony convictions, could face up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine if he's convicted, prosecutors said.