Two charged in big gold nugget heist

YREKA, Calif. — Two San Francisco Bay area men have been named as suspects in connection with the theft of more than $1 million in gold from a county courthouse’s historical collection, Siskiyou County officials said.

David Dean Johnson, 49, of El Cerrito and Scott Wayne Bailey, 51, of El Sobrante, are wanted on $1 million arrest warrants issued earlier this week, the Redding Record-Searchlight reported Friday.

The two allegedly broke into the gold collection at the Siskiyou County Courthouse in Yreka in February 2012 and made off with $1,257,500 in gold, jewelry and artifacts.

“These thieves stole a part of Siskiyou County history, which represents the hard work, sacrifice, traditions, and pioneer spirit which characterizes the personality of Siskiyou County and its citizens — past and present,” Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey said in a statement.

After allegedly making off with the gold, jewelry and artifacts, Johnson and Bailey used the money from the sale of the goods to purchase “high-value” items, Lopey said.

The entire gold collection before the theft was valued at about $3 million. Lopey said it would be “highly speculative” to guess how much of the gold, if any, would eventually be recovered, Lopey said.

When detectives traveled to the Bay Area looking for the two suspects on Thursday, they found additional evidence, Siskiyou County sheriff’s detectives said.

Surveillance footage captured video images of two men breaking into the courthouse at the time of the heist. An alarm that was rigged to notify Yreka police and sheriff’s deputies did not sound at the time.

Yreka, the seat of Siskiyou County, sits in the shadow of 14,000-foot Mount Shasta near the Oregon border.

Miners and other residents donated much of the gold to the collection over the past century, while other pieces were purchased with county funds.

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