Accused Star Wars thief turns to dark side

A Georgia man faces a preliminary hearing this month on charges of theft from a private Stars Wars museum near Petaluma.

Carl Edward Cunningham, 45, of Marietta, Georgia, pleaded not guilty on March 24 in Sonoma County Superior Court to one count of felony grand theft. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 27.

Steve Sansweet, founder of the Rancho Obi-Wan museum located in a private residence in unincorporated Sonoma County west of Petaluma, said more than 100 valuable Star Wars items were stolen in 2015 and 2016.

The majority of the items were vintage U.S. and foreign carded action figures and many were rare and important pieces, Sansweet said on the museum’s website.

Most of the items were sold or professionally appraised at more than $200,000, Sansweet said.

The theft was discovered after major Star Wars collector Philip Wise posted news of the theft of his rare prototype rocket-firing Boba Fett action figure from his Texas warehouse, Sansweet said.

Southern California toy dealer and collector Zach Tann notified Wise he had purchased the Boba Fett figure from Cunningham. Tann told Philip he had previously bought Star Wars collectibles from Cunningham, leading him to believe they likely were stolen from the Rancho Obi-Wan museum, Sansweet said.

Sansweet said he has known Cunningham, a trusted friend, for many years and played host to him at his home.

“I and the staff at Rancho Obi-Wan are devastated that he is the alleged perpetrator of the thefts. Not only have important items been stolen from the collection, but also our time, energy and ability to trust unconditionally have taken a blow,” Sansweet said.

Rancho Obi-Wan has no public hours or access, and directions to its location are given when schools book free tours of the museum.