OAKLAND -- A Gold Rush-era jewelry box swiped from the Oakland Museum of California in a brazen January burglary has been recovered, and a parolee with 10 prior felony convictions has been charged with the crime.

"We were so happy. We thought we were in the movie 'National Treasure,'" Oakland police investigating Officer Michael Igualdo said Tuesday in announcing the discovery and arrest at a museum news conference.

The box, valued at $805,000, was recovered Monday at a business police declined to name. The box may have been damaged, but the extent of any possible damage has yet to be determined.

Andre Taray Franklin, 45, of Hayward, was arrested on suspicion of twice burglarizing the Oakland Museum of California. He was charged Tuesday with receiving stolen property that is valued at more than $200,000.

Police consider Franklin a suspect in both the Jan. 9 burglary, when the quartz and gold box was taken, as well as a Nov. 12, break-in when gold nuggets and Gold Rush-era pistols were taken. Those items have not been recovered, and police suspect they may have been sold.

Franklin, who was already on parole for possession of stolen property, was arrested Sunday morning while driving in the 600 block of East 15th Street in Oakland.

Police, who don't need a warrant to search people on parole, found pictures of the box and one pistol on Franklin's cell phone, which linked him to the museum burglaries and also helped detectives track down the gold box.

Franklin remains at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin on a no-bail hold.


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The historic jewelry box was made between 1869 and 1878 by a San Francisco goldsmith, A. Andrews, who also signed the piece. Officials were concerned following the January theft that the thief would melt down the irreplaceable box, which includes gold that hasn't been mined in California since the 19th century.

Police Lt. Oliver Cunningham said detectives put "a lot of effort into finding this very, very valuable piece.

"Everybody wants you to solve the case now. We're always getting stonewalled from different points during the investigation," but the museum has been patient with this case, Cunningham said.

During the January burglary, a security guard heard the alarm sound and could see the intruder on a surveillance camera screen in another section of the compound, which stretches for a city block along Oak Street. The guard called Oakland police, but the thief had already left by the time officers arrived.

It was the second time the box was stolen. It was also lifted in 1978, but was found eight years later and returned to the museum by an art appraiser, who did not know the item was stolen.

The two burglaries forced museum officials to add security guards, cameras, alarms and additional lighting to protect the 1.8 million objects at the museum.

"It is our mission and responsibility to share California history," said museum Executive Director Lori Fogarty.

Staff writer Daniel M. Jimenez contributed to this report. Reach Kristin J. Bender at kbender@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/kjbender. Reach Harry Harris at hharris@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/harryharris15.