A former employee at Dale Chihuly’s warehouse in Tacoma is accused of stealing more than $3 million worth of art and selling it to support a drug habit.
Pierce County prosecutors last week charged Christopher Kaul, 38, with first-degree theft and three counts of first-degree trafficking in stolen property. He is to be arraigned June 15.
Charging papers gave this account:
Warehouse executives became aware of the missing artwork in September 2014 after an appraiser called to verify the authenticity of two paintings and one glass piece.
They then realized the pieces were missing and did an audit. It found 90 pieces of art worth about $3 million were missing from the warehouse.
The FBI took over the investigation.
Investigators said they traced three stolen items to Kaul, who allegedly confessed to stealing them but denied taking the other artwork.
Kaul worked at the warehouse from March 2010 until he was fired in June 2013.
“The defendant said that during that time he was fighting a pill addiction and was not going to work on a regular basis and was eventually fired because of this problem,” according to charging papers.
Kaul allegedly said he started taking the artwork in October 2012 after he relapsed and thought the stolen items would go “unnoticed.”
“The defendant admitted to selling items to people by telling them he worked at Chihuly and was able to get an employee discount,” records state.
Investigators found about 40 pieces of Chihuly art in the home of one of the men who bought items from Kaul.