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Owner of largest Star Wars memorabilia collection robbed
[LOS ANGELES] The owner of the largest collection of Star Wars memorabilia said on Monday a longtime friend had robbed him of more than 100 items, including rare vintage US and foreign carded action figures.
Steve Sansweet, who runs Rancho Obi-Wan, a non-profit museum north of San Francisco, said the theft took place over several months in late 2015 through 2016.
"There were more than 100 valuable items stolen, the majority of them vintage US and foreign carded action figures, many of them rare and important pieces," Mr Sansweet said in a statement.
Mr Sansweet, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who worked for 15 years as head of fan relations at Lucasfilm before retiring in 2011, identified the suspect as Carl Cunningham, a well-known Star Wars collector and R2-D2 builder from Marietta, Georgia.
A spokesman for the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office confirmed to AFP that Cunningham on March 13 had been charged with felony grand theft.
Reading from the charge sheet, Sergeant Spencer Crum said Cunningham had visited Mr Sansweet three times in the past year "and had access to Sansweet's museum as he voluntarily dusted pieces and did cleanup work around the museum." Mr Crum said the items stolen were estimated to be worth US$153,000.
The theft came to light after a major collector and owner of several Star Wars websites raised the alarm upon discovering that one of his collectibles - a rare prototype rocket-firing Boba Fett action figure - was stolen from his Texas warehouse.
A toy dealer subsequently came forward to say he had purchased the item as well as a number of other rare Star Wars collectibles from Cunningham.
Mr Sansweet said he had known Cunningham for many years and considered him a good and trusted friend.
"I, and the staff at Rancho Obi-Wan, are devastated that he is the alleged perpetrator of the thefts," he said. "Not only have important items been stolen from the collection, but also our time, energy and ability to trust unconditionally have taken a blow."
He appealed to anyone who may have purchased any stolen Star Wars collectibles to come forward.
"It is our goal to resolve this situation as quickly as possible and to continue to use the collection at Rancho Obi-Wan to 'Inspire through the Force' despite the destruction caused by one person," he said.