L.A.P.D., FBI hot on pilfered Oscars’ trail

R.S. Owens making new statuettes, no shortage expected

Nominees aren’t the only ones pursuing Oscar this year: The L.A. Police Dept. and the FBI are also hoping to get their hands on the little fella.

At a press confab Friday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences confirmed that a shipment of 55 Oscars was missing (Daily Variety, March 17).

Putting in a plug for Sunday’s Oscarcast, Acad exec director Bruce Davis joked, “We think everybody should watch the entire show, to see if we have enough (Oscars) to get through to the very end.”

The exec disclosed that the Acad and the police are treating this as a theft. But since the 10 pilfered crates were unmarked, the org assumes the thieves didn’t know what they took.

The statuettes left Chicago manufacturer R.S. Owens on March 3 via a Roadway Express truck, and “arrived without incident” in Bell, Calif., on March 8, Davis says. After that, “Roadway Express seems to have lost track of them.”

This follows the disappearance of 4,200 final ballots in the mail earlier this month. On Thursday, Acad execs got a phone call from the Post Office, saying the missing ballots were finally found in a station in Bell.

The Oscar statuettes disappeared from a Roadway Express office — also in Bell.

Joking that the city is like the Bermuda Triangle, Davis deadpanned, “We have told (Oscars host) Billy Crystal not to go anywhere near Bell, California, for the next two weeks.”

Getting serious, Davis stressed that “there is no possibility” that there won’t be enough statuettes on Sunday, since R.S. Owens is manufacturing a new batch. On this trip, and in the future, the Acad will use its former method of shipping: moving the trophies via United Airlines (loaded and unloaded by Intercon security guards) and driven by armored car to Acad headquarters.

“Roadway Express apparently has a somewhat casual attitude toward security in their facility,” he said, smiling. (Davis pointed out that Owens, not the Academy, had hired Roadway.)

The 55 trophies cost $18,000, but their value is “inestimable,” he said. Roadway Express waited two days to notify the Acad; the police then indicated the investigation might go better if the org waited a few days to announce the disappearance.

Since it has more resources than Bell police, the LAPD was brought in, and the FBI’s art-theft experts were helping. There is a $50,000 reward leading to the arrest and conviction of the apparent felons (call 213-485-2505 with info).

As to whether all this hoopla will draw viewers, Davis joked, “I think we’ll look at the ratings closely this year and (if they’re good) possibly contrive to have another shipment stolen next year.”

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