Man Charged in Oscars Theft

Monday, October 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police continued their hunt for three missing Oscars on Saturday after arresting the brother of a salvage man credited with finding 52 of the 55 stolen statuettes last spring, authorities said.

``I'm sure detectives will look into all possibilities that would lead them to ... the missing statues,'' Officer Guillermo Campos said Saturday.

John Harris, 54, was arrested and jailed Friday for investigation of receiving stolen property and being an accessory to grand theft.

Two other men were charged with grand theft earlier this year: Lawrence Ledent, 38, a former truck driver, pleaded no contest in June and is to begin serving a six-month jail term in December; Anthony Hart, a dock worker at the warehouse from which the statuettes disappeared, pleaded innocent and is awaiting trial.

Police also were investigating the salvage man, Willie Fulgear, 61, after they learned he is Harris' brother, although Campos said Fulgear is not a suspect in the thefts at this point.

``The detectives do find it highly unusual that Mr. Harris had the statuettes and then his brother found them in a Dumpster nearby,'' Campos said. He would not comment on what led police to Harris, saying only that the investigation was continuing.

Harris admitted to detectives that he kept the stolen gold-plated statuettes in his home for a short period of time and that he expected to be paid for doing so, Detective Marc Zavala said in Saturday's Daily News of Los Angeles.

Harris told police it was only a coincidence that his brother found all but three of the statuettes, Zavala said. Fulgear found them about a week before the March 26 Academy Awards ceremony. The Oscars had been stolen from a warehouse loading dock in suburban Bell two and half weeks earlier.

Fulgear told KCBS-TV in Los Angeles on Saturday that his estranged brother never told him where to find the Oscars and that no one led him to the find.

``In fact I hate (that) I found them,'' he said. ``Ain't nothing left.''

He received a $50,000 reward, two tickets to the show and he was honored by show host Billy Crystal for recovering the statuettes.

But after receiving the reward, Fulgear reported that most of the money had been stolen from a safe in his apartment. Zavala said several people who live in Fulgear's home said they did not believe a burglary had taken place.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, which presents the annual awards show and gave Fulgear the reward, will wait until police complete their investigation to decide how to respond, said Fay Kanin, a board member and past president.

``I just think it would be interesting to find out what really happened,'' Kanin said.


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