An accused thief pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of stealing an expensive violin from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music last month.

Scott Sylvester, 27, is suspected of stealing a violin worth about $23,000 from a practice room at the conservatory, located at 50 Oak St., on April 26, police said.

He was spotted leaving with the violin in its case, which a couple of the victim’s friends recognized as her case, according to police.

The friends followed the suspect to a San Francisco Municipal Railway light-rail vehicle but lost him once he got onboard.

Police were able to determine which train he was on based on information from the friends, and obtained the surveillance video from it to try to identify him.

Sylvester allegedly decided to turn the violin in to a priest at St. Mary’s Cathedral in the city’s Western Addition neighborhood last Thursday and was arrested later that day, police said.

He was charged with grand theft, second-degree burglary and receiving stolen property, and pleaded not guilty to all charges during his arraignment in San Francisco Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon, according to the district attorney’s office.

He was released on his own recognizance over the objection of the prosecution, and is scheduled to return to court June 30 for a preliminary hearing.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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