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Suspect Arrested in Theft of Antiques Worth Up to $2 Million from Downtown Business

Santa Barbara police say the 83-year-old owner of Collector's Corner is in declining health, and that the person who stole the items 'exploited' his absence

Police have arrested a Santa Barbara man suspected of stealing $2 million worth of antiques from an elderly business owner and are asking the public to help them recover stolen items still missing.

Pablo Sela
Pablo Sela

Pablo Sela, 49, of Santa Barbara, was arrested on charges of receiving stolen property, elder abuse, and drug offenses related to an ongoing burglary investigation being conducted by the Santa Barbara Police Department’s Property Crimes Unit, according to police Sgt. Riley Harwood.

Police have been working on the case since Feb. 24, and the burglary stems from a storefront known as Collector's Corner, an antique store at 701 Anacapa St.

The owner of the store, an 83-year-old in declining health, had been unable to maintain a regular presence in the store.

"Investigation indicates that over the course of three to four months, a suspect or suspects exploited the owner’s absence and stole approximately $1.5 million to $2 million worth of antiques from a locked storage room at that location," Harwood said.

The stolen property consisted of a wide variety of antique items with significant quantities of Native American baskets and artifacts, old-fashioned guns and ivory carvings, Harwood said.

On Wednesday, a search warrant was obtained for Sela's residence in the 800 block of West Islay Street and for his business, Iron Cross Tattoo, at 35 E. Ortega St. Harwood said Collector’s Corner and Iron Cross Tattoo are located in the same building.

Sela was contacted at his home at 1 p.m. Wednesday, and more than 150 items stolen from Collector’s Corner were recovered from his home and office, according to Harwood.

He also said police found small quantities of methamphetamine, Suboxone, Valium and drug paraphernalia inside Iron Cross Tattoo, and Sela was arrested.

Later Wednesday, police received information that additional stolen property was located at a residence in Santa Barbara’s Mesa area, where Harwood said Sela had asked a resident there to store the property without knowledge that it was stolen.

A search warrant was executed at that home, where detectives recovered more than 50 additional stolen items.

Sela was booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail with bail set at $250,000. He is facing charges of receiving stolen property, elder abuse, possession of methamphetamine, Suboxone, Valium and drug paraphernalia.

Harwood said a conservative estimate of the value of the recovered property is $250,000, and additional property is believed to be outstanding, including about 75 vintage firearms. 

Anyone with knowledge of Sela’s activities concerning the sale of antiques or anyone who is storing property on Sela’s behalf is asked to contact Detective John Ingram at 805.897.2331 or [email protected].

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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