Fifty-three of the 55 missing Oscars that mysteriously disappeared from a loading dock were found late Sunday night in a green dumpster behind a supermarket at Venice Boulevard and Western Avenue near Koreatown, according to police.
The Oscars, still in cardboard boxes and wrapped in cellophane, were found by a man rummaging through a bin behind the Food 4 Less store, according to television reports.
Unaware of what he had, the man, Willie Fullgear, loaded the boxes into his car, according to KCBS-TV Channel 2. He then opened up the crates about 9:30 p.m. to see what he had, and discovered the missing Oscars were inside, the station reported.
Unsure what to do, he called Channel 2, which came to his home and accompanied Fullgear as he called police. Officers came and later went back with Fullgear to the bin where he found the boxes.
“He had taken some of them in the trunk of his car to his home,” said Wilshire Division Capt. David Powers, who confirmed at a news conference that 53 Oscars had been recovered.
Fullgear, who stood near the recovered Oscars smoking a cigarette and smiling, will get a $50,000 reward if someone is arrested and convicted for the theft of the statuettes, which disappeared sometime on or around March 8 from a Roadway Express loading dock in Bell.
The missing Oscars are made of high-grade pewter coated with copper, nickel, silver and gold, and the lot of them cost the Motion Picture Academy $18,000. They were not yet engraved with the winners’ names.
Officials said this was the first time a shipment of Oscars had been hijacked before the awards ceremony.
The disappearance is the second Oscar mishap to occur this month.
Sacks containing 4,000 Oscar ballots were misrouted after delivery to the Beverly Hills post office by an accounting firm March 1. The ballots were eventually found at a bulk mail facility in Bell--a facility different from the one Roadway uses.
Investigators believe that the culprit or culprits didn’t realize what they were taking, since the Oscars, which weigh 8.5 pounds apiece and are 13.5 inches tall, were shipped in unmarked packaging.