Investigators continue to search for at least two suspects and the
estimated $2 million in gold nuggets and precious gems taken in an
armed robbery Sept. 28 from the California State Mining and Mineral Museum.
The museum is located in Mariposa, Calif., in the foothills of the
Sierra Nevada Mountains near Yosemite National Park. The museum housed
the 132-year-old collection of gold nuggets and mineral specimens.
The robbery report was made by museum employees around 4 p.m.
Sept. 28. The museum is closed “until further notice while repairs are
completed,” stated a news release from Roy Stearns, deputy direction
of communications for the state parks office.
“A number of display cases, doors and other items were damaged,”
according to the news release, dated Oct. 1.
An inventory of the stolen items continues. Until it is completed,
Stearns said, the state parks department will not have a listing of
what was taken nor the exact dollar amount of the stolen items.
A California Highway Patrol spokesman confirmed that the nearly
13.8-pound Fricot nugget of crystalline gold — one of the museum’s
treasures — was not taken.
According to police reports, when the suspects attempted to enter
the vault where the giant nugget was kept, they triggered an alarm.
The Fricot nugget is the largest intact mass of crystalline gold
remaining from the gold rush era. The nugget was unearthed from the
American River in northern California during the gold rush era.
Daylight robbery details
Two female employees were at the museum at the time of the robbery
but neither one was injured. They reported two male suspects, dressed
head to toe in black, wearing masks and possibly night vision goggles,
were carrying pickaxes when they entered the museum.
The CHP Investigative Services Unit is leading the investigation,
according to Stearns. The CHP unit is being assisted by the California
Department of Justice, California State Parks and the Mariposa County
The mineral collection on display in Mariposa dates back to 1880
and contained more than 13,000 objects including mining artifacts,
rare specimens of crystalline gold in its many forms, as well as gem
and mineral specimens from California and around the world.
The collection was moved to Mariposa in 1983 after being on
display in San Francisco for more than 100 years. The Mariposa museum
became a state park in 1999.
Officials ask that anyone having information about the theft in
Mariposa or about someone trying to sell unusual precious minerals
call the CHP at 559-277-7250.
Mariposa is third recent theft
The Mariposa museum robbery was the third theft in 10 months
involving gold and other rare and valuable minerals in California.
On Feb. 1, more than $600,000 worth of gold nuggets from the 1850s
was stolen from a display case at the Siskiyou County Courthouse in
Yreka. The thieves took 351 ounces of gold nuggets and left behind
274.475 ounces of gold, according to Siskiyou Sheriff’s Department officials.
The display that was targeted by the thieves featured historic
gold nuggets mined in the area and other mining memorabilia from this
far northern California county that borders Oregon.
Police received a report of the break-in around 7 a.m. Feb. 1. One
of the surveillance cameras in the lobby shows two males breaking into
the gold cases around 1 a.m.
Officials estimated the value of the stolen gold at about $3
million total. The silent alarm was not triggered during the break-in.
According to report, the thieves apparently entered the building
through an unlocked window in the rear of the courthouse.
Another theft occurred in the early hours of Dec. 10, 2011. The
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History was burglarized of its
collection of gold dating to the California Gold Rush era.
Included in the burglary were gold nuggets, flakes and other small
pieces of gold.
Officials valued the stolen items at more than $4,000, according
to a news report by KEYT, the ABC television affiliate in Santa