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Laguna Beach art galleries hit by string of thefts

November 8, 2011 |  9:37 am

Laguna Beach art thief
A $2,000 glass sculpture was stolen from a gallery in Laguna Beach, the latest in a string of art thefts in the area.

The Townley Gallery reported the incident Friday after a man walked into the gallery at 570 S. Coast Hwy. around 7 p.m. and grabbed a sculpture when owner Shane Townley had his back to him.

Townley said he was giving a couple directions to a nearby restaurant when the man slipped in without his knowledge and then left with the artwork, the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot reported.

The stolen glass sculpture by artist Patrick Blythe is valued at $2,000.

The entire incident was caught on the gallery's video surveillance system, which was installed after a $10,000 bronze sculpture was stolen more than a year ago.

The video shows that the man put the sculpture under his coat and walked out.

The gallery's report describes the suspect as 6 feet tall and weighing 220 pounds with dark hair. At the time, he was wearing a black jacket and light jeans.

This theft comes only a week after the Village Gallery at 502 S. Coast Hwy. reported a similar incident. After conferring with owner Pamela Brown, who also has surveillance images, Townley said he believes they could be the same thief.

On Oct. 22, Brown said a man is seen on her video "staking out" the gallery, walking in and out a couple of times before removing a sculpture from a cabinet and setting it on the ground. She said he then went outside, came back in and put it in a bag.

"It seemed that he was staking out that particular piece because it looked like he was taking a picture of it and talking on the phone to someone," Brown said, referring to the video footage.

The bronze sculpture by Sherri McKuen is valued at $3,295.

Brown said she hadn't been a victim of theft before but said he heard that other galleries in the city have been affected.

Anyone with information should contact the Laguna Beach Police Department at (949) 497-0701.

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-- Joanna Clay, Times Community News

Photo: Art theft suspect is seen on Townley Gallery surveillance video images. Credit: Courtesy of Townley Gallery

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