Fifth arrest in museum robbery

Some stolen items found in search

01/23/2013 11:53 PM

09/11/2014 1:19 PM

A fifth suspect has been arrested in connection with the September robbery at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa, the California Highway Patrol reported Wednesday.

Michael Anthony Gomes, 43, was arrested about 7:15 a.m. Tuesday after authorities searched his home in Citrus Heights, according to CHP officer Adrian Perez.

Perez said authorities recovered some of the stolen items from the suspect's home, but would not disclose details, citing the ongoing investigation.

Gomes, who reportedly is a convicted felon, will be extradited to Mariposa and booked into the county jail on suspicion of robbery, possession of stolen property, burglary, conspiracy and vandalism -- all felony charges.

Gomes was formally charged Wednesday afternoon and will be arraigned at 9 a.m. today in Mariposa County Superior Court, according to the district attorney's office.

Gomes has previous drug convictions in Sacramento and Placer counties, according to court documents.

The other four suspects -- Christopher Scott Sheffield, 42, Matthew Campbell, 43, Jonathan Matis, 41, Edward Rushing III, 40 -- all pleaded not guilty during their arraignments in November.

The four men are in custody and awaiting preliminary hearings.

In the two-minute heist, the robbers stole an estimated $1.3 million in gold and gems after smashing display cases.

The robbery happened Sept. 28 when the men, dressed in black and wearing hoods, entered the museum's vault about 4 p.m. after threatening a guide and curator with pickaxes.

The robbers were unsuccessful in their attempt to steal one of the museum's most-prized pieces -- a 14-pound gold mass called the Fricot Nugget.

Darci Moore, curator at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum, said the fifth arrest Tuesday brings a sense of relief to the community and museum staff.

"We're happy that they've been caught, and we hope that the justice system will work," Moore said. "We're going to just wait and see how the court process unfolds."

Moore said losing the historic items has a widespread impact and affects more than just the museum. "It doesn't just hurt the facility, but also the people of California and all the future generations," she said. "That's the kind of thing that these people don't care about -- the value and the history of these special pieces. And we're offended by that."

The museum, which is operated by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, is home to more than 13,000 artifacts dating back to the 1800s.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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