Parolee Gets 4 Years For Stealing Gold Rush-Era Jewelry Box From Oakland Museum

A parolee with ten prior felony convictions, eight of them burglary-related, has been sentenced to four years in federal prison for stealing and then selling a Gold Rush-era jewelry box from the Oakland Museum of California last year, prosecutors said.

Andre Franklin, 46, pleaded guilty in March to theft of major artwork and unlawful concealment and disposition of stolen major artwork for taking the jewelry box, which is worth about $800,000 from the museum on Jan. 8, 2013.

The museum is located at 1000 Oak St. in Oakland, near Lake Merritt.

Franklin also was a suspect in a break-in at the museum on Nov. 9, 2012, in which gold nuggets and Gold Rush era pistols were taken, but he was never charged for that incident.

He was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White on Tuesday.

The jewelry box was created between 1869 and 1878 by San Francisco goldsmith A. Andrews. It's made of California gold and adorned with gold veined quartz.

Franklin was arrested in the 600 block of East 15th Street in Oakland on March 3, 2013.

His case initially was handled by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, which charged him with one count of receiving stolen property for having possession of the jewelry box as well as 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.

But Franklin's case was transferred to federal court last May, when a federal grand jury in Oakland indicted him.

The U.S. Attorney's office said that when Franklin pleaded guilty in March he admitted that, in exchange for money, he gave the jewelry box that he knew had been stolen from the Oakland Museum to another person.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said in a statement, "This prosecution, conviction and sentence send a strong message that the U.S. Attorney's Office values greatly, and will fight to protect, the museums and cultural institutions in Oakland and the Bay Area that maintain and display historic items for the public to enjoy."

The jewelry box was recovered when Franklin was arrested and is back in the museum's possession. But museum spokesman Scott Horton said there are no plans at this time to put it back on display.

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