APD arrests stolen gold nugget's suspected seller, seeks thief
Anchorage police have arrested the man they say tried to sell a large gold nugget stolen from the Wells Fargo bank's Alaska headquarters, but the thief remains at large.
Police responded to the theft, at the West Northern Lights Boulevard building, at about 4:45 p.m. Friday according to an APD statement.
The suspect is described as a white man 35 to 40 years old, standing about 5 feet, 8 inches tall with brown hair and wearing a white coat.
Nicho Mott, the manager of Gold Buyers of Alaska in Eagle River, said the alleged seller, 19-year-old Austin Sala, brought in a 17.5-ounce gold nugget on Monday that was the size of a small football. Mott said it was clear that Sala knew nothing about gold or its worth. In addition, the nugget had been hacked apart.
"When you were looking at it on one side it looked completely unaltered," Mott said.
The other side of the nugget, however, showed the marks where someone had cut away small pieces. Mott said it nearly brought tears to his eyes to see the damage on such a rare specimen.
"It would be like taking a Picasso painting and letting a kid draw with crayons on top of it or something like that," Mott said. "It just absolutely destroyed it."
Mott said the nugget in its natural state would have been worth about $60,000, but with damage, the value dropped to about $17,000. He called police, who arrested Sala at his shop. They also questioned a woman, but didn't charge her.
According to charging documents, Sala told detectives the nugget was left behind in a hotel room by a man who originally offered to split the profits if Sala would sell the nugget for him.
In addition to an outstanding felony warrant, Sala is also charged with two counts of theft.
Detectives are still looking for the person who originally stole the nugget from the bank, as well as anyone else trying to sell pieces of it. Anyone with information is asked to call Anchorage dispatch at 311 or Crime Stoppers at 561-STOP and anchoragecrimestoppers.com.
Lauren Maxwell contributed information to this story.
Editor's note: A reference to Gold Buyers of Alaska as a pawn shop has been removed.
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