Accidental Fresno art heist may be solved

FRESNO, Calif.

As Action News reported last week, the art heist appeared to have started as a simple copper wire theft.

Now it seems, the same thieves have been very busy -- targeting a few Clovis schools and Clovis Community Hospital.

Action News was there as police closed in on an arrest by serving two search warrants Thursday.

With the cut of a thick lock, Fresno police officers got a close look inside the life of a burglary suspect.

They say Christopher Ramage used the storage garage to hide stolen material -- possibly even the art work of Thomas Kinkade.

Thieves believed to be targeting copper wire stole 40 paintings by the recently deceased artist from a former Old Town Clovis store owner. Investigators have been hunting for them ever since.

"Mr. Ramage we know has been responsible, we believe, going and taking stuff to pawn shops that he's stolen," said Fresno police Sgt. Tim Tietjen.

Clovis police arrested Ramage last month for a copper wire theft at Clovis Community Hospital, but the jail released him a little while later.

A few days after that, police say he stole copper wire at Temperance-Kutner Elementary School, the latest in a series of thefts at Clovis schools. But investigators don't think Ramage is acting alone -- far from it.

"We believe this is a large crew of individuals that are very sophisticated in nature that are doing numerous burglaries on a daily basis," Sgt. Tietjen said.

Officers served two search warrants Thursday -- one at the storage facility and another in the Clovis neighborhood where Ramage lives.

They didn't find their suspect and the only painting in the storage facility was obviously not a Kinkade, but investigators say they did find a lot of evidence to help them close out the case.

The victim of the art heist is still looking at items police collected during Thursday's search warrant to see if any of it belonged to him. So far, though, his art is still missing.

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