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Stranger Than Fiction: Stolen Brain Samples and other Weird Thefts

10-Jan-2014

In a story that sounds like a modern Frankenstein tale, a 21-year-old man was arrested last week after stealing the brain samples of mental patients and selling them on eBay.

Police say that David Charles repeatedly broke into the Indiana Medical History Museum last year, stealing brain samples and other preserved tissue samples each time. According to the museum director, the facility is on the grounds of a former mental hospital, and the brain samples are those taken from deceased mental patients during autopsies from the 1890's to 1940's.

A man who "liked to collect odd things" notified police after paying $600 (plus $70 shipping) for six jars of brain samples and noticing the museum labels on the samples. Charles was arrested after agreeing to sell brain samples to an undercover police officer. He has been charged with felony theft for stealing $4,800 worth of medical specimens from the museum. He has also been charged with marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia. Prosecutors say he may face additional charges--buying and selling human organs is a federal felony.

Stealing brain samples and medical specimens for resale seems to be an odd choice, but it is just one among many strange theft stories. 

Among its list of "Strange Loot: A Collection of the Most Bizarre Stolen Items," TruTV includes the following items:

  • 93 ponytails
  • communion wafers
  • 19 vials of HIV-positive blood
  • The Jonas Brothers' boxer shorts
  • $15,000 in breast pumps
  • Gold teeth from bodies sent for embalming or cremation
  • The body of a lion killed during an exotic animal escape

Oddee has its own list of strange stolen items, including the following:

  • A condom machine
  • A garden
  • A 350-pound inflatable gorilla
  • A 400-pound elephant statue
  • A 10-ton steel bridge
  • A live shark
  • 300 manhole covers

Theft from bodies and theft of tissue samples are macabre, but many of the strange stolen items are simply baffling. Some of the most commonly stolen items also seem strange, but these items are easily sold for profit. An America Now report cites the Bureau of Justice in saying that 25 percent of all thefts are committed by drug addicts who are looking to quickly sell the stolen items in order to get cash for drugs. Among the most frequently stolen items are laundry detergent, livestock, copper, and baby formula.

In Oklahoma theft charges are based on the value of the stolen item or items, regardless of how strange that item may be. 

If the value of stolen property is less than $500, the offense is petty theft, a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 and 6 months in jail. However, if the value exceeds $500, the crime is grand theft, a felony punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, and restitution to the victim.

Theft of copper, livestock, gasoline, and cable television are among offenses subject to prosecution under laws related to specific theft crimes. Oklahoma's theft laws are outlined in 21 O.S.§ 1701 - 1740.1.

Find out more about theft in Oklahoma, or click here to discuss your case confidentially with an experienced defense attorney.



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