Caught in crime web

Police nab studio costume theft suspects

Their “Spidey” web of intrigue stretched from Los Angeles to New York to Japan.

But following an 18-month investigation, four stolen “Spider-Man” costumes — valued at $50,000 each — and one “Batman” suit valued at $150,000 have been recovered, Los Angeles County prosecutors say.

Culver City police served search warrants at locations in Los Angeles and New York, where three of the pilfered “Spider-Man” costumes were recovered. The “Batman” suit and mannequin were traced to a New York collector, while the fourth “Spider-Man” suit wound up in Japan, according to a Sony spokeswoman.

The suits had been stolen from different studios, but are linked by a former studio security guard, Jeffrey Glenn Gustafson, who worked at both Warner Bros. and more recently, as a guard Sony Pictures Entertainment. He and another man, Robert Hughes, were allegedly in possession of the custom-made costume suits.

The “Spider-Man” suits were reported stolen in April of last year from the set of “Spider-Man.” A mannequin and a “Batman” suit valued at $150,000 were taken from the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank in March 1996.

Gustafson, 35, of Burbank, is charged with two counts of receiving stolen property, while Hughes, 34, of Los Angeles, is charged with one count of receiving stolen property.

Gustafson had worked as a security guard for Warner Bros. in March 1996, and later for Sony Pictures in a similar capacity, but left Sony in January 2001.

He is being held in lieu of the $350,000 bail the District Attorney’s office recommended. Bond has set at $50,000 for Hughes. Both men are tentatively scheduled to enter pleas today at the Airport Branch Courthouse in Los Angeles.

“We took this seriously from the beginning and while we had other costumes to use in the production, we were willing to invest the time and money to track down those responsible,” said Gary Martin, President of Columbia Pictures Production Administration. “We have a zero tolerance policy for theft and will pursue all violators.”

If convicted, Gustafson could get a prison term of up to seven years and eight months, and Hughes could get five years.

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