Throwback: Oscar drama unfolds weeks ahead of 72nd Academy Awards in 2000

Posted at 5:30 AM, Mar 09, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS — As WRTV prepares to air the 95th Academy Awards this Sunday, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to the year 2000, when the drama before the awards show led to a nationwide manhunt of sorts.

The company behind the Oscar statuettes, R.S. Owens, had seemingly perfected its process of crafting and shipping the gold-plated awards for more than 15 years. But in 2000, 55 of the statuettes vanished from a loading dock in Bell, California, weeks before the awards ceremony.

The shipping company responsible for losing the tiny bald men offered a $50,000 reward for their safe return.

Just days before the show, a 61-year-old man named Willie Fulgear stumbled upon 10 unmarked packages that were discarded in a trash bin in Los Angeles. Fifty-two of the 55 missing statuettes were recovered.

“I’m a poor man, and I stumbled across, I guess, gold,” Fulgear told reporters. ”I gave it back, where some people wouldn’t.”

Fulgear was awarded the full $50,000 reward and even received a ticket to the awards ceremony.

Lawrence Ledent, the man accused of stealing the statuettes, was sentenced to 6 months in jail and 5 years' probation.