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Federal grand jury indicts parolee in theft of Gold Rush-era jewelry box from Oakland Museum

A parolee was indicted by a federal grand jury in the theft of a valuable Gold Rush-era jewelry box from the Oakland Museum of California, authorities said Friday.

Andre Taray Franklin, 45, of Oakland was charged Thursday with theft of major artwork and unlawful concealment and disposition of stolen major artwork, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said.

Franklin is accused of stealing the 19th century gold-encrusted jewelry box valued at more than $800,000 from the museum in January. The box depicts images of early California history and was originally a wedding anniversary gift from a San Francisco pioneer to his wife in the 1800s.

The rare artifact is about the size of a small shoebox and weighs about three pounds. It was returned to the museum in March.

Authorities say Franklin is also a suspect in the November theft of gold nuggets and Gold Rush-era pistols from the museum's popular Gallery of California History exhibit. He has not been charged in that case.

No court date has been set for Franklin, who has 10 prior felony convictions and remains in jail for violating his parole. It was unclear if he had an attorney.

Federal prosecutors said Franklin became a suspect after authorities traced his DNA on an ax apparently used to smash glass cases at the museum. His sneakers also matched footprints found outside the museum, they said.

Franklin's cellphone was discovered and it contained a series of text messages involving a business owner who bought the box for $1,500, Oakland police said.

The messages included the owner's address where the box was found, police said.

The box was stolen after a thief smashed a glass panel and opened a door. Also taken was a miner's scale used to weigh gold.

The incident was captured on a surveillance system that played a key role in identifying Franklin as a possible suspect, police have said.

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