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Arrests Made in Oscar Statues Case

March 21, 2000

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Two men who worked for the trucking company hired to deliver Academy Awards statues were charged with stealing the 55 Oscars, all but three of which were found over the weekend beside a trash bin by a man scavenging for valuables.

Police said Monday the two men hoped to profit from Hollywood’s most valued trophy.

Bruce Davis, Academy executive director, said the 52 statues recovered look fine and some probably will be awarded Sunday. If any are ``nicked or dinged, they will not be used,″ Davis said.

Police said the Oscar theft was an inside job involving two 10-year employees of Roadway Express, the company hired to deliver the statues.

Anthony Keith Hart and Lawrence Edward Ledent, both 38, were arrested Saturday and booked for investigation of grand theft. They were being held on $100,000 bail each. It wasn’t immediately clear if they had attorneys who could comment.

Anonymous tips received Saturday led police to the suspects, but detectives would not elaborate.

``They did it for profit. They thought they could make money,″ police Detective Marc Zavala said.

In one of the oddest presentations in Oscar history, officers wheeled two carts loaded with the statues into a news conference by police Chief Bernard Parks. Officers slipped on rubber gloves to remove six of the Oscars from their packaging and set them on a table.

Detectives and Academy officials said they did not know the whereabouts of the other three Oscars. The gold-plated statues are 13 1/2-inches tall and weigh 8 1/2 pounds each. The 55 statues cost about $18,000 to manufacture.

The Oscars were shipped March 3 from manufacturer R.S. Owens of Chicago and arrived at Roadway Express’ warehouse in Bell, Calif., on March 8.

It is the same community where 4,000 Oscar ballots were misplaced at a postal facility earlier this month, forcing the Academy to print new ballots and extend voting by two days, to this Thursday.

Jon Gerloff, security manager for Roadway’s western division, said the company believes Hart and Ledent made off with the statues the same day the shipment arrived.

With some Oscars already in the Academy vaults and the new statues being made by R.S. Owens, organizers now have far more than they will need for the big night. ``We have enough for about three years,″ said Academy President Robert Rehme.

The Academy was just glad to have the statues back and remained hopeful the missing three would be found.

``It’s been an enormous distraction,″ Davis said. ``It’s nice to know there’s not going to be a flood of them on the black market.″

The statues were found Sunday night by Willie Fulgear, who had been scavenging trash bins for valuables and called police to report the discovery.

``I’ve got more Oscars than any of the movie stars,″ said Fulgear, who hopes to collect some or all of a $50,000 reward put up by Roadway Express. Gerloff said Roadway Express had not figured out whether Fulgear would receive some of the money.

Rehme also said the Academy had not decided whether to invite Fulgear to the Oscars, though Davis said that ``would make kind of a satisfactory conclusion to the whole thing.″

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On the Net: http://www.oscars.org

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