Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey provided an update on the investigation of the Feb. 1 courthouse gold burglary at the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday.

“My department is confident that this case is going to be solved, but sometimes crimes of this nature cannot be solved overnight,” Lopey said.

While the original estimate of the value of the stolen gold was $619,515 based on weight, Lopey told the board that officials now estimate the value is between $1.5 million and $1.7 million. He also confirmed that valuable gemstones in the display were left untouched.

Siskiyou County Administrator Brian McDermott stated that the county has hired an appraiser at a cost of $35,000 to ascertain the exact value of the stolen nuggets. He noted that the cost of the appraisal will be covered under the county’s insurance plan, and will not impact the general fund.

Regarding the investigation, Lopey told the board that DNA was recovered from the crime scene and is being run in various computer systems such as CODIS, which operates local, state and national databases of DNA profiles.

Lopey also stated that a significant amount of evidence was recovered at the scene with the assistance of the Department of Justice Crime Lab.

The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office has investigated 100 leads that involve suspects in numerous counties and several states, and two key leads are currently being investigated, Lopey said.

In addition, online and area gold vendors have been monitored and periodically checked.

“Extensive detective manpower and energy have gone into this investigation and will continue until the case is solved,” Lopey said.
However, he noted that a lack of resources has reduced the manpower for the investigation.

“Why did the alarm fail?” District 2 Supervisor Ed Valenzuela asked.
Siskiyou County Counsel Tom Guarino responded that the county cannot reveal that information, though he said that in time, the county will disclose the answer to that question.

Siskiyou County Treasurer Wayne Hammer stated that the alarm company, Diebold, has prepared a report on the alarm failure. However, due to the impending insurance claim, “We have been advised to not release that report at this point.”

The alarm was activated but did not operate properly at the time of the theft, Lopey said.

When asked if other items were stolen from the courthouse the night of the theft, Lopey said he did not want to provide an answer to that question due to the ongoing investigation.

Valenzuela asked for clarification about which department is responsible for courthouse security.

Lopey responded that the SCSO is responsible for security at the entrance of the courthouse and in the courtrooms. However, he noted that his department is not responsible for department offices and night security at the facility.

Lopey stated that a security plan for the courthouse is being developed and meetings have been held with department heads and court administrative personnel to implement these measures.

The security plan includes adding alarm systems, fencing, signage, barriers in vulnerable areas around the courthouse and implementing background checks for contractors.

“If we all work together on that, we can implement the security plan in 30 to 60 days,” he said. “This will be a great deterrent but also early detection if we have another theft in the future.”

District 3 Supervisor Michael Kobseff asked if the enhanced security is in anticipation of the remaining gold being displayed at the courthouse again in the future.

When the thieves raided the gold display case, they stole the large pieces of gold and left the small chunks untouched. The remaining gold is currently being stored at an undisclosed location.

“The security measures should be implemented regardless of whether the gold comes back to the courthouse,” Lopey responded. He added that judges and other public officials have been threatened, and enhanced security is a necessity at the facility.

While the supervisors spoke in favor of enhanced security, concerns were raised about the idea of adding fencing. Lopey pointed out that other kinds of barriers around vulnerable courthouse areas could be installed rather than fencing.

District 1 Supervisor Jim Cook thanked the SCSO for initiating the enhanced security at the courthouse. “This is an opportunity to look at the entire security system,” Cook said.