Looks like Jabba the Hutt and Darth Vader won’t need to send intergalactic bounty hunters to track down Carl Cunningham. The 45-year-old man accused of ripping off a bunch of Star Wars and Lucasfilm memorabilia has pleaded guilty in the Sonoma County Superior Court. He will go to jail for four years.
On Monday, local California news site the Petaluma Patch reported that after pleading guilty, Cunningham will be sentenced on September 7, 2017. Though Cunningham reportedly stole multiple toys and collectibles — including a rare Boba Fett action figure — the Judge apparently ruled the entire theft as “one count of felony grand theft.”
Back in June, Steve Sansweet, owner of Rancho Obi-Wan — a large museum of Star Wars collectables — reported that somewhere between $100K-200K of merchandise had been stolen by Cunningham. Deputy District Attorney Emily Malfatti said that the exact value of all the toys and collectables has “yet to be determined.” But, because of the length of Cunningham’s jail time, the legal value must be pretty high.
According to California Law firm Wallin and Klarich, “Grand theft is considered a ‘wobbler’ in California, which means it can be charged as either felony theft or misdemeanor theft depending on the circumstances of your case and your previous criminal history.” So, because Cunningham was charged with felony grand theft, the judge must have determined all the missing stuff was worth at least $100K, otherwise, the felony charge wouldn’t have been used and the jail time wouldn’t have been so long.
For reference, one of the stolen items, a vintage “big head” Han Solo, goes for over $2,000 on Ebay right now. Cunningham stole over 20 similar action figures. In the full list of missing items posted by Sansweet, there are even some non-Star Wars things, including Indiana Jones merchandise and four “Gooney hats.” Have you seen anyone wearing a vintage Gooneys hat lately? Did you ask them where they bought it?
It’s also worth nothing that the “original” value of the vast majority of these stolen items is murky. The average original cost of a vintage Star Wars action figure was $2.99 in 1983. The value then of these toys has been obviously inflated by collectors like Sansweet and grown men who pay thousands of dollars for these toys. In other words, Cunningham didn’t steal from children, he stole from adults. Maybe he saw himself as a Han Solo-type rogue criminal? We’ll never know.
In Lucasfilm’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, the evil Belloq lectures Indiana Jones about how priceless artifacts work. Holding up a pocket watch, he says, tauntingly: “Look at this. It’s worthless — ten dollars from a vendor in the street. But I take it, I bury it in the sand for a thousand years, it becomes priceless, like the Ark.” One of the items Cunningham stole was a slide from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Surely, that irony wasn’t lost on him.