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Four arrested in hijacking of gold and gems from Mariposa museum

The men are suspected of taking $1 million in gold and gems from the museum on Sept. 28. The CHP says more arrests are possible.

November 15, 2012|By Diana Marcum, Los Angeles Times
  • This is the upper part of the Fricot nugget, which at 13.8 lbs is the largest remaining specimen of crystallized gold from 19th century California. Thieves who broke into the California State Mining and Mineral Museum missed the nugget while stealing other gold nuggets and gems.
This is the upper part of the Fricot nugget, which at 13.8 lbs is the largest… (Tomas Ovalle )

FRESNO -- Four men suspected in the heist of more than $1 million in gold and gems from the California State Mining and Minerals Museum in Mariposa have been arrested, investigators said, adding that more arrests were possible.

Men dressed as ninjas and armed with pick-axes broke into the Sierra foothill museum Sept. 28, in broad daylight, and herded two employees into a far room before smashing display cases.

But the thieves failed to get away with the facility's most prized possession: the Fricot nugget, nearly 14 pounds of crystalline gold believed to be the largest nugget to survive the California Gold Rush. The intruders triggered an alarm system, which automatically closed the doors to the nugget's vault, but they dove out in time and escaped the museum with other artifacts.

A spokesman for the California Highway Patrol — the lead agency investigating the state museum break-in — said some of the stolen gold with quartz had been recovered.

Christopher Sheffield, 42, was taken into custody late Tuesday, authorities said. Earlier Tuesday, police arrested 41-year-old Jonathan Matis; Matthew Campbell, 43; and 40-year-old Edward Rushing III, all residents of gold country counties near Sacramento.

The museum, a popular destination for local grade school field trips, reopened last week for the first time since the robbery.

diana.marcum@latimes.com

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