The idea of the hardcore Star Wars fan who hoards a massive collection of merchandise and refuses to let anyone touch or look at it is a well-worn stereotype at this point, but Steve Sansweet—the owner of the largest privately-owned Star Wars collection in the world—has just learned a valuable lesson in what happens when you let people get too close to your Star Wars stuff. As reported by io9, Sansweet has revealed that over 100 items have been stolen from his Rancho Obi-Wan collection in Northern California (a non-profit organization that gives the proceeds from tours to various charities), but this wasn’t some kind of nerdy smash-and-grab. It turns out that the alleged culprit was a close friend of Sansweet’s named Carl Edward Cunningham, and he had been quietly stealing items from Sansweet’s collection over the last few months and then reselling them.
The value of the stolen items came out to over $200,000, and Cunningham was identified because he tried to unload an “ultra-rare Boba Fett action figure” that evidently drew more attention than he had anticipated. Cunningham turned himself in to the police, and he’s currently out on bail. In a statement, Sansweet referred to the situation as “a devastating betrayal,” adding that he’s been friends with Cunningham for 20 years. Also, just to further underline how hard this was for him, this huge Star Wars fan apparently chose to ignore a perfect opportunity to drop a reference to Lando double-crossing Han in The Empire Strikes Back.
Luckily, Sansweet says the Star Wars community has “offered its support” to him, with two people who unknowingly bought stolen items off of Cunningham agreeing to return them to Sansweet’s collection. He has also posted a note on the Rancho Obi-Wan site asking anyone else who bought some of these items to do the same, so if you recently got an impossibly hot deal on a very rare Star Wars toy, you might want to check in.
[Note: io9, like The A.V. Club, is owned by Univision Communications.]