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Gold nugget loses its glitter

Store thief offers to pay after photos surface

– A man suspected of walking out of a Juneau, Alaska, jewelry store with a gold nugget worth nearly $5,000 developed a conscience and paid for it – after his image was distributed by police through a Crime Stoppers program.

The man was a former resident who had returned three weeks ago to participate in a salmon fishing derby, police Lt. Kris Sell said. By Sunday afternoon, he had called the store and left his credit card number to pay for the precious metal.

“He didn’t think he was on video,” Sell said.

Alaska has a rich mining history, and gold continues to be pursued by corporations with heavy equipment and people with gold pans. Nuggets are used in jewelry, and the largest specimens are prized for their natural beauty and heft.

The missing nugget disappeared Aug. 10.

According to Juneau Crime Line, a man in his 60s took a nugget from a display case and tried to get a clerk’s attention, but then put the nugget in his pocket and walked out of the store.

A clerk said the man had bought something the day before and provided his name. But police could find no one by that name in Juneau.

Still photos distributed by Juneau Crime Line were published Friday by the Juneau Empire and others. Tips poured in, Sell said. Apparently someone also tipped off the suspect.

The man called the jewelry store and said, “I hear you’re looking for me,” Sell said, before leaving his credit card number.

Linking him to the missing nugget was aided by the man’s Facebook post about his plan to fish in the derby. It helps police when suspects post travel plans, Sell said.

“If they commit a crime, it makes it fairly easy to place them here,” she said.

Police and prosecutors will decide in a week or so whether to press charges.

“It would be an expensive case to prosecute because of the extradition involved,” Sell said.