Rancho Obi-Wan is filled with collector’s items die-hard Star Wars fans can only dream about.
The Northern California nonprofit serves as a museum, offering tours and visits for true seekers of the force. And now it needs help.
Recently, a fellow collector confessed to stealing more than 100 items, including many vintage action figures, worth $200,000. Rancho Obi-Wan founder Steve Sansweet said in a phone call Tuesday he decided to go public with the case as the stolen items were getting harder to track.
On Monday, he asked fans in an email and blog post for tips on the stolen items’ whereabouts. Samsweet made a list on Facebook of about 20 items that the museum and law enforcement hasn’t been able to find after collector Carl Cunningham, 45, pilfered them along with other items when visiting the Petaluma, California, collection on four different occasions in late 2015 through 2016.
The thefts were discovered when another Star Wars collector posted about his Boba Fett action figure being stolen from a Texas warehouse. A Southern California collector said he had bought the figure and many other rare items from Cunningham, a well-known R2-D2 builder from Georgia, according to Sansweet.
That’s when it became clear Cunningham was stealing rare Star Wars collector’s items and re-selling them. Sale dates of different items to the SoCal collector matched up with four different visits to Rancho Obi-Wan, according to Sansweet.
“The sense of betrayal is so strong,” Sansweet said in a phone call. The museum first realized items were missing in mid-February.
By the end of March, Cunningham surrendered to Sonoma County sheriff’s authorities and was charged with felony grand theft. He is currently out on $25,000 bail. He’s due back in court at the end of the month.
The missing items include action figures, cards, Lego sets, and other toys.
Sansweet said Cunningham was a good friend he’d known for years, making this all the more devastating. Cunningham has reached out to try to apologize in person, but Sansweet doesn’t want to interact with him, he said.
But through all this, Sansweet, who headed fan relations for Lucasfilms for 15 years before opening Rancho Obi-Wan six years ago, is still devoted to the Star Wars faithful. Sure more security cameras have gone up, but otherwise tours are still on and items are still out in the open instead of behind glass or locked up.
“This one rotten egg has not changed my view on Star Wars fans,” he said. “Star Wars fans are truly amazing. There’s nothing like it.”
Even more heart-warming for Sansweet were the tweets and emails of support from fans. Even Star Wars actors Peter Mayhew and Mark Hamill are helping hunt down the missing items.
Don’t worry, Steve. Luke Skywalker is on the case.