|For Immediate Release
Case # 99HF1000
February 25, 2009
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
FUGITIVE ARRESTED IN LAS VEGAS FOR STEALING $260,000 IN PAINTINGS FROM LAGUNA BEACH GALLERIES IN 1999
LAGUNA BEACH – A fugitive charged with stealing more than $260,000 in original paintings from Laguna Beach galleries in 1999 was arrested today on a decade-old warrant while living under a false name in Las Vegas. Joseph Michael Killebrew, 50, is charged with four felony counts of grand theft and sentencing enhancements for theft over $100,000. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of eight years and four months in state prison. He was arrested today by detectives from the Laguna Beach Police Department at his home in Las Vegas, NV, with assistance from the Las Vegas metro Police Department. Killebrew is being held without bail and will face extradition proceedings in Nevada.
In April 1999, Killebrew field a report with the San Diego Police Department claiming that his San Diego County home had been burglarized. He claimed that various items from his personal art collection had been stolen including crystal, sculptures, and over $230,000 in oil paintings. Killebrew received over $260,000 from his insurance company for the claimed losses.
In July 1999, Killebrew is accused of purchasing several original oil paintings valued over $261,000 from Laguna Beach art galleries DeRus Fine Art, Redfern Gallery, and Joan Irvine Smith Fine Art. The defendant is accused of writing four personal checks for the paintings. After leaving the galleries with the paintings, Killebrew is accused of stopping payment on the checks.
During that time, Killebrew is accused of purchasing three original oil paintings valued over $108,000 from Edenhurst Gallery in West Hollywood, and also stopping payment on the personal checks used for the purchase. The Los Angeles theft was filed as a separate case in Los Angeles County and a warrant was issued in that case.
When the galleries contacted Killebrew after failing to receive payment on his canceled checks, the defendant is accused of claiming that he had to leave the state for a family emergency and would resolve his due payments when he returned. Killebrew is accused of then fleeing the state.
In September 1999, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) charged Killebrew with grand theft and filed a warrant for his arrest. The case remained cold until November 2008, when OCDA investigators located Killebrew living in Las Vegas under the alias “Michael Palmer.”
Investigators from the Laguna Beach Police Department arrested Killebrew at his Las Vegas home today with the assistance of local law enforcement. Killebrew is accused of being in possession of all of the Laguna Beach paintings, as well as items he claimed had been stolen in San Diego, at the time of his arrest. The investigation is ongoing.
Deputy District Attorney Sean O’Brien of the Major Fraud Unit is prosecuting this case.