Reporting Andrea Menniti
MARIPOSA (CBS13) — Investigators are looking for thieves who made off with an estimated $2 million in precious gems and gold from a Central Valley museum during a brazen daytime robbery.
The California Highway Patrol says the robbers were armed with pickaxes and threatened workers during the heist Friday at the California Mining and Minerals Museum in Mariposa. No suspects have been identified.
The museum is home to more than 13,000 artifacts, including the Fricot Nugget, a nearly 14-pound crystalline gold mass. Investigators would not say what items were taken, but did confirm the nugget was not among them.
During their attempt to grab the massive nugget, the robbers triggered an alarm that alerted authorities who swarmed the museum, but were unable to nab the thieves.
Dressed in black from head to toe, the pair of armed robbers ransacked the museum and threatened two women working inside the state park.
“The gold is crystal in form and it’s worth up to 50 times what the melted-down gold would be worth,” museum association president Ron Ludice said.
On Monday the tight-knit community was still reeling from Friday’s robbery.
“There’s just a lot of irreplaceable things that we’ll never get back that have been around since the Gold Rush days in this town,” resident Sean Laflaur said.
Exactly what was taken remains a mystery.
Museum staff was busy picking up the pieces and taking inventory of artifacts that date back to the 1800s. A sign on the door said the museum was closed for repairs.
People who live in the picturesque town don’t believe one of their own is behind the theft
“I think that somebody would have possibly seen something and they would have been apprehended already,” resident Chuck Nichols said.
Some fear an outsider cased the place.
“I don’t know who would have done something like that unless they were from down south somewhere — knew what they had,” Laflaur said.
It’s the second heist this year of rare, valuable metals in Northern California. In February thieves made away with large chunks of gold that were on display in a Siskiyou County courthouse.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)