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Arrest Made in Case of Purloined Pachyderm

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 22-year-old man suspected of stealing a one-ton teak elephant from a Thai restaurant was arrested Wednesday after narcotics officers searching the man’s home found several photographs of him posing with the statue.

One of the photographs found in Kevin Voss’ home Wednesday night showed him mugging with the 6-foot-tall carved elephant, which had a straw hat on its head, said Newport Beach Police Sgt. Andy Gonis. Voss was arrested about 9:30 p.m. on suspicion of grand theft and was being held in the Newport Beach jail in lieu of $10,000 bail, Gonis said.

Voss was convicted in 1990 of selling drugs, Gonis said. As a condition of his probation, officers may conduct random searches of Voss’ home, in the 4900 block of Seashore Drive.

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The photos showed Voss, and sometimes other people, with the elephant, which disappeared Jan. 17 from its base outside the Royal Thai Cuisine restaurant at 4001 W. Coast Highway. A jogger discovered the elephant five days later on the beach near 50th Street in a sand pit between two seaside bungalows.

At the time, police investigators were stumped over how someone could have moved the elephant, a traditional Thai symbol of good luck. After interviewing Voss, police Thursday refused to say how they think the elephant was stolen or transported.

Employees of Royal Thai Cuisine were elated at the elephant’s return in January even though it was damaged. The right tusk was missing, a part of its right ear was chipped off, and there were large scrapes and gouges along the body.

But most of that damage has been repaired, said restaurant owner Sam Tila on Thursday. He said he was surprised to learn that police had made an arrest in the case.

“I really feel bad for the kid,” Tila said. “When I was a kid, we did some strange things back in Thailand.”

Police said that the investigation is continuing and that they expect to make other arrests in connection with the theft.


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