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Woman charged with possession of opera star’s stolen treasures

Submitted by on 1, January 19, 2010 – 3:40 pmNo Comment

12Updated 6:02 p.m. Tuesday, January 19

Police have arrested a San Leandro woman on a possession of stolen property charge in connection with the theft of $50,000 worth of china, furniture and collectibles from a storage locker belonging to opera star Frederica von Stade.

Police arrested Kelly Lee Baslee, 47, of San Leandro on Wednesday as she was dropping off items identified as von Stade’s at Michaan’s Auctions. Alameda Police Detective Craig Vreeland said police don’t yet know how she came to be in possession of the items. But he said police believe she had been bringing von Stade’s items to the auction house to sell since February 2008.

Von Stade’s family reported the items stolen from a Sherman Street storage facility on October 21, Vreeland said. The items had been in the facility since 2006.

He said the family began distributing packets of photos to local auction houses and antique businesses in an effort to retrieve their items and that Michaan’s staff recognized some of the pieces.The Alameda Journal’s Peter Hegarty, who broke the story earlier today, said police identified Baslee as a suspect “through auction house records and other evidence.”

Vreeland said the items include china, vases, artwork, figurines, candlesticks, a chandelier and furniture. In all, he said 53 boxes of von Stade’s property were sold by the auction house. The Journal’s Hegarty said the items were family heirlooms and that some of them had been in von Stade’s family for generations.

Vreeland said police believe the items were dropped off 10 boxes at a time and that they were sold on consignment, meaning that they were “sold all over the world” and could be difficult to find. He said Michaan’s staff is working with the family in an effort to recover their most treasured items back.

He praised von Stade and her family for having the foresight to catalogue their treasures and for their efforts in helping to retrieve them, and said police are continuing to investigate the case in the hopes they can find out who stole the items.

“We want to figure out who committed this crime,” Vreeland said.

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