N.J. man says Jackson memorabilia stolen in Nevada

LAS VEGAS (AP) – A New Jersey businessman is alleging that part of his collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia was stolen from a Nevada storage facility and auctioned without his knowledge.

Henry Vaccaro filed a police report July 31 saying his rented storage space was burglarized and valuable Jackson items were missing, North Las Vegas police said Thursday. The auction was staged on July 26.

Vaccaro of Asbury Park, N.J., told investigators he last saw the items in storage at Southern Nevada Movers in North Las Vegas more than two years ago – on May 30, 2007, police Sgt. Tim Bedwell said.

Vaccaro also reported memorabilia unrelated to Jackson was missing. He put the value of the missing items at about $1 million.

Federal authorities in Las Vegas said they were not investigating.

Vaccaro told The Associated Press the missing items included lyrics, notebooks and costumes first obtained years ago. He said he had agreed to give some of the items back to Jackson’s estate.

He discovered the theft on July 19, he said.

“Everything that was sold is stolen merchandise,” the 69-year-old Vaccaro said.

Mario Trabado, owner of Clark County Public Auction, said he had auctioned Jackson items bought legally less than a month earlier from a private collector. He declined to identify the collector but said it was not Vaccaro.

Most of the items sold were connected with the Jackson family, not the King of Pop himself, Trabado said. The items included a 31-page Jackson family photo album from the 1980s, which fetched $1,000, and a personal notebook that contained doodles, Bible quotations and other notes written by Michael Jackson. The notebook sold for $3,500.

Trabado said the 277 lots sold for about $37,000 – a loss for the auction house after he accounted for promotion costs. “It wasn’t a very good deal for us at all,” Trabado said.

Trabado said the collector from whom he bought the items told him he obtained them in a storage auction held because a customer of the facility had unpaid bills.

A man who answered the phone at Southern Nevada Movers declined to identify himself and said the company knew about Vaccaro’s allegations but had no comment.

Bedwell wouldn’t say whether Vaccaro’s storage fees had been paid, explaining it was part of the investigation. The police spokesman said other investigative agencies would be involved in the case but declined to identify them.

Vaccaro said the items left in storage went unsold following a May 2007 auction of Jackson family and Michael Jackson memorabilia conducted by New York-based Guernsey’s at the Hard Rock hotel-casino in Las Vegas.

Michael Jackson and his sister, Janet Jackson, initially sought to prevent that auction but dropped their opposition as part of a confidential settlement.

The seller, Universal Express Inc., of Boca Raton, Fla., later estimated the sales netted more than $1.5 million.

Vaccaro said he reacquired ownership of the items in a settlement and the rent was being paid by a federal receiver handling Universal Express affairs.

“I had nothing to do with paying the rent,” he said.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.