Stephen J Sansweet, the owner of the world’s most extensive Star Wars collection, has fallen prey to a series of thefts thought to be orchestrated by a friend of 20 years.
Over a hundred items were stole from his collection, which has a combined estimated value of $200,000.
The alleged culprit has been identified as 45-year-old Carl Edward Cunningham of Marietta, Georgia.
He was arrested in March in Sonoma County, California, and charged with felony grand theft.
Cunningham is currently released on $25,000 bail, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 27.
Sansweet’s collection started when he first heard of a new 20th Century Fox film that was destined to change the course of movie history.
Housed in Rancho Obi-Wan, a converted chicken barn in Petaluma that’s 45 minutes drive north of San Francisco, the collection has been growing since before the arrival of the first film in 1976.
Over the course of 40 years, the collection grew to become large enough to enter the Guinness Book of Records, with 93,260 pieces officially catalogued.
In truth, the collection is closer to 500,000.
Sansweet told Metro.co.uk:
As bad as the theft was, of more than 100 valuable items from a nonprofit museum, the sense of betrayal that it was apparently done by a fellow Star Wars fan and longtime friend was absolutely devastating.
I’ve known the thief, Carl Cunningham, for two decades after meeting him at a fan convention in Atlanta. We all at Rancho considered him almost a part of the family as he stayed with us and shared meals with us.
As I said, it was nothing short of betrayal. But the Star Wars fan community has rallied around after we put out our statement and we’re hoping to recover a good part of what was stolen.
Even Luke Skywalker himself, actor Mark Hamill, has weighed in on the topic, posting this tweet.
Hamill’s advice was taken and a list of highly valuable items has been shared on social media by collectors worldwide.
Anyone with details of these items should contact email@example.com.