Employee of Dale Chihuly Admits He Stole More Than $3M in Sculptures
TACOMA, Wash., June 3 (UPI) — A former employee of Dale Chihuly admitted he stole more than $3 million worth of artworks by the glass artist and sold them for a fraction of their value in Washington.
Christopher Kaul, 38, worked for Chihuly Studio between 2010 and 2013, when he was fired for not regularly showing up to work. Pierce County, Wash., prosecutors accused Kaul of hiding the scheme to steal an estimated 90 artworks from a warehouse in Tacoma, Wash.
The glass sculptures were missing for more than a year without any employees noticing the theft.
The value the stolen artworks totaled an estimated $3,082,000, court documents filed Tuesday indicate. Kaul sold them for less than their worth.
Kaul admitted to stealing the works to fund a pill addiction. He said he started stealing items he thought no one would notice after he attended rehab. The FBI said inventory practices at the studio were “horrible,” which is how the thefts went unnoticed.
Employees at Chihuly Studio were notified of the thefts in 2014 when an art appraiser who had some of the items contact them.
The artist’s studio hired a private investigator, who has so far recovered 40 of the missing artworks.
Kaul was charged with one count of first-degree theft and three counts of trafficking stolen property. He is scheduled to appear in court June 15.
Chihuly is a world-famous American glass sculptor, whose works are installed in a number of museums, gardens and other public spaces throughout the world. He is known for his vibrantly colorful, fluid and organic monumental glass sculptures often presented in complex groupings.
Affidavit of probable cause for Christopher Kaul