Art Theft

Art or Scrap Metal?

junk_yard.jpg (18018 bytes)Artist Kewal Soni creates abstract sculptures in San Pedro and stores them in a storage yard attached to his studio. It takes Soni approximately one year to finish each project. In 1998, a Hollywood movie studio featured his sculptures in the motion picture “Star Trek: Insurrection.” Shortly after the art was returned, Soni was the victim of three separate thefts of art. The suspects entered the storage yard and removed four unsigned sculptures worth a total of $29,000. With each theft, the artist upgraded the security of the yard by adding barbed wire and steel cables to secure the sculptures. Despite these efforts, the thieves climbed a gate and pushed the heavy metal sculptures (some 10 ft. tall) over the gate and loaded them into a utility truck during the early morning hours. The artist is 71 years Samuel Westscott Cunninghamold and battling cancer.

An investigation by the Art Theft Detail revealed the sculptures were taken to various metal recycling dealers in Wilmington and Carson where the art was sold for scrap for its brass and copper content. One $10,000 sculpture was sold for $9.10. With the assistance of the Metal Theft Details of LAPD and the L.A. County Sheriffs Department, three of the sculptures were recovered before they could be shredded and destroyed.

Samuel Westscott Cunningham, 42 years old, has been arrested in the case and his utility truck seized. The District Attorney has filed multiple counts of grand theft and receiving stolen property against Cunningham who is awaiting trial. Detectives are attempting to identify additional suspects in the case.