Santa Barbara police arrested 49-year-old Pablo Sela after he allegedly stole up to $2 million worth of Native American baskets, antique guns, ivory carvings, and other artifacts over a period of three to four months from a locked storage room at Collector’s Corner on Anacapa Street. The antique store’s 83-year-old owner had not been at the shop for a period of time due to declining health, according to police spokesperson Sgt. Riley Harwood.
Sela owns Iron Cross Tattoo, which is located at 35 E. Ortega and is in the same building as Collector’s Corner. Detectives arrested Sela after obtaining a search warrant for his residence (located on the 800 block of W. Islay Street) and for the tattoo parlor. Detectives and officers found over 150 stolen items at both locations, Harwood said. Detectives also found small quantities of methamphetamine, Suboxone, Valium, and drug paraphernalia inside the tattoo parlor.
On Tuesday, detectives obtained a search warrant for a Mesa home after discovering that Sela had allegedly asked the resident to store a number of stolen items there. Hardwood said Sela had not disclosed to the resident that the property was stolen. Other suspects may be involved in the thefts, and the value of the recovered property is estimated at $250,000. Other items, including 75 vintage firearms, have not been found, and the investigation is ongoing.
Sela was arrested on charges of theft, elder abuse, and drug possession, and he appeared in court Friday for arraignment. His bail is set at $250,000. Anyone with information on the case is asked to call (805) 897-2331 or contact Detective John Ingram at firstname.lastname@example.org.