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Suspects arrested in Mariposa museum gold heist

November 14, 2012 |  2:39 pm

The Fricot nugget, nearly 14 pounds of crystalline gold, was spared in a Sept. 28 heist. Darci Moore, curator of the California State Mineral and Mining Museum, is reflected in the display of the Fricot nugget.

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 of the vault 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 in Fresno

Photo: Darci Moore, curator of the California State Mineral and Mining Museum at the Mariposa fairgrounds, is reflected in the display of the Fricot nugget. Credit:  Los Angeles Times

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