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Pickaxe-wielding robbers grab $2M in gold, gems in Mariposa mining museum heist

4:15 PM, Oct 1, 2012   |    comments
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  • California Mining and Minerals Museum in Mariposa, California.
  • California Mining and Minerals Museum in Mariposa, California.
    

MARIPOSA, CA - The police call that a robbery was underway at the local mining museum sounded so strange, newspaper editor Jill Ballinger figured it was a drill or a false alarm.

"Surreal, just surreal. Things like that don't happen (in Mariposa," said Ballinger.

It was Friday afternoon when two masked men, dressed in black, robbed the California State Mining and Mineral Museum at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds. Witnesses said they were armed with pick axes and escaped with an estimated $2 million worth of gold.

Ballinger said the men were so organized, they stole a car in Mariposa just before the robbery, then dumped it during the getaway.

So where will that gold end up? The president of the Museum Association speculates the gold will be sold in chunks, rather than melted down, because it will be more valuable that way.

"It's nature's art. It's the way gold comes out of the ground. It crystallizes and is sought after by collectors," said Ron Iudice.

Iudice described the robbery as the largest ever in Mariposa County. Ballinger hoped it was people from out of the area who were responsible.

"I hope locals have more respect for the history and the value of what's in the museum. I'm hoping it's not someone from here," she said.

Since the museum is actually a state park, the California Highway Patrol is investigating the daytime robbery.

By tdaly@news10.net

News10/KXTV

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