2:25 PM:A man was arrested Tuesday night after staff at the San Francisco Botanical Garden recognized him as a suspect in the theft of 40 pieces of art from the garden’s horticulture library in late April.
Terry Helbing, 53, who has been known to frequent the botanical garden as well as attend art openings and horticulture meetings in the main building, was taken into custody at about 7 p.m.
San Francisco Botanical Garden Society executive director Michael McKechnie said Helbing is believed to have stolen five paintings by local artists and two 100-year-old paintings, as well as 33 prints that had been for sale.
“He seemed to have a passion for art,” McKechnie said. “He apparently collected it any way he could.”
Botanical garden staff began to suspect Helbing in the burglary after he made statements about his art collection.
“We’d been suspicious of him for some time,” McKechnie said. “It turns out we were right.”
Botanical garden staff were told to alert police the next time Helbing stopped by, which turned out to be Tuesday night.
“He was in the county fair building in the botanical garden, attending a meeting of the orchid society,” McKechnie said. “A couple of staff recognized him and called police.”
After Helbing’s arrest, police served a search warrant in the 400 block of Ellis Street this morning and recovered numerous pieces of art, including paintings, rugs and vases that belong to multiple victims.
McKechnie said he expects to have all of the botanical garden’s artwork returned, and estimated its value at $15,000.
“We’re very grateful the paintings are going to be returned,” he said.
Police have not disclosed who the other victims are but said they expect to serve additional search warrants related to this case.
12:32 PM: Police have identified a man arrested Tuesday night on suspicion of stealing artwork from multiple locations, including the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
Terry Helbing, 53, was taken into custody at about 7 p.m. after he returned to a location in the 1100 block of Ninth Avenue he had allegedly burglarized previously and was recognized by an employee, San Francisco police spokesman Albie Esparza said.
Following his arrest, police served a search warrant in the 400 block of Ellis Street this morning where they recovered multiple pieces of stolen artwork, including paintings, rugs and vases, according to Esparza.
Esparza didn’t know the value of the artwork recovered but said authorities expect to serve additional search warrants in connection with the case.
10:03 AM: Police serving a search warrant at an apartment in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood this morning recovered stolen artwork including rugs, paintings and vases, a police spokesman said.
The search warrant stemmed from an arrest at about 7 p.m. Tuesday, when an employee of a store in the 1100 block of Ninth Avenue called police to report that a man who had burglarized the store previously had returned, police spokesman Albie Esparza said.
Officers responded and arrested the 53-year-old man on suspicion of burglary, according to Esparza.
Police then obtained a search warrant for an apartment in the 400 block of Ellis Street, where this morning they recovered the stolen artwork, Esparza said.
The property seized is believed to have belonged to multiple victims, but Esparza did not yet know the value of the items.
He said police expect to serve additional search warrants at various locations in connection with the case.