Iron Cross Tattoo owner Pablo Sela (pictured) remains in custody this week on an ICE hold after he allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of pricey antiques over the course of a few months from a locked storage room at Collector’s Corner. A native of Spain, Sela has rented space for his tattoo parlor for about 17 years from the 83-year-old owner of Collector’s Corner, located in the funky pink building on the corner of Anacapa and Ortega streets.
Though Collector’s Corner has not been open much lately due to the owner’s declining health, a peek in the window shows it is chock-full of eclectic items. In addition to coins, Native American baskets and blankets, ivory, and vintage guns, there have been various Nazi memorabilia, including swastikas and military badges, inside. The family confirmed such items had once been for sale in the shop but said they belonged to Sela and were sold at Collector’s Corner to help pay Sela’s rent, which he had long been behind on. Sela, who is reportedly Jewish, has a collection of Nazi memorabilia and at times has hung a flag with the iron cross in his parlor window.
Facing up to seven years in prison, Sela could be more harshly punished if the value of recovered items — more than 150 vintage artifacts have been discovered so far — are worth more than $1.3 million. It’s still unclear how much the stolen valuables are worth; police reports initially stated that at least $2 million worth of items had been taken, but a conservative appraisal of the stolen items discovered so far is $250,000. The investigation is still ongoing, and 75 vintages guns, among other collectables, are still believed to be outstanding.
This ample theft is not the elderly owner’s first experience with crime. In the early 1970s, a few years after he landed in Santa Barbara in 1969, he nearly lost his life after his throat was slit open and he was stabbed 14 times by two young men dressed in ties and sport jackets one Sunday afternoon. Despite the scare and alarming loss of blood, the owner stayed in the antique business and purchased the building, where he has since rented out space to other small businesses, including Iron Cross Tattoo.
Sela has a reputation for not carding minors, and the lack of bookkeeping was an issue during his latest Public Health Department inspection last month. Authorities found his records lacked necessary forms documenting age verification and periodic testing of the autoclave. He also had not paid his permit, but he did at that hearing.
Sela was arrested Friday on charges of receiving stolen property, elder abuse, and drug possession and was scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday. In 1997, Sela was convicted of two felony possessions of methamphetamine, and in 2008, he was also was convicted of possession of a knife at an elementary school.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. John Ingram at email@example.com or call 897-2331.