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Wednesday, 22 March, 2000, 11:39 GMT
Oscar theft suspect charged
Oscar statuettes
The Oscar statuettes were en route to Hollywood
Prosecutors in Los Angeles have charged one of two men accused of stealing 55 Oscars with grand theft - the other suspect has been set free.

Lawrence Ledent, 38, who worked as a driver for Roadway Express Inc - the company which handled the shipment of the Oscars - was charged with one count of grand theft.

Prosecutors also asked the judge to hold Ledent on $20,000 (12,700) bail.
Lawrence Ledent
Ledent was charged with one count of grand theft
However, no charges were brought against the other man Anthony Hart, 38 - a Roadway loading dock worker - because deputy district attorney Gregson Somes found "insufficient evidence to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt".

Somes then ordered police to free Hart "pending further investigation".

Recovery

Ledent and Hart were arrested last Saturday following the disappearance of the coveted statuettes for this Sunday's ceremony.

The Oscars, manufactured by a Chicago company at a cost of about $18,000 (11,000), were shipped on 3 March. They arrived at Roadway Express' warehouse in Bell, California on 8 March, and then disappeared.

Three of the gold-plated Oscars are still missing, but the rest of the statuettes were found on Sunday night by a man rummaging through a skip in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles.
police
LA police chief Bernard Parks confirmed the arrests
Following the arrests, police claimed Ledent and Hart had stolen the shipment of Oscars en route to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

They said the thieves had planned to sell the famous statuettes but abandoned that plan after their crime gathered international attention.

A police spokesman said they were surprised to learn of the prosecutors' decision to release Hart, adding: "It's within their domain to make charges.

"We do the investigation and it's their job to charge them. They've given us no reason why they have let him go."

'Dupe'

Ledent pleaded not guilty to the charges and his attorney Jay Jaffe told reporters that his client was being treated unfairly.
Jay Jaffe
Jay Jaffe says his client is a "dupe"
"Mr Ledent did not steal these Oscars," said Jaffe. He added: "Mr Ledent is a dupe in this matter. The Oscars were placed in his truck without his knowledge."

Both Ledent and Hart have been fired from their jobs with Roadway. Ledent, who is due back in court on 31 March for a preliminary hearing, faces a possible three-year prison sentence if convicted of stealing the Oscars.

The disappearance of the awards was the second hitch in the run-up to the Academy Awards.

Earlier this month, 4,000 ballots posted to voters in the Los Angeles area failed to arrive, and new ballots had to be sent out.

See also:

21 Mar 00 | Entertainment
14 Mar 00 | Entertainment
15 Feb 00 | Entertainment
23 Feb 00 | Entertainment
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