SXSW band gets guitar back, man charged in theft

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – A Mississippi-based band whose van was broken into and their musical gear stolen during the annual South by Southwest festival in March has at least one guitar back after a savvy Craigslist shopper took action and called police, who then made an arrest.

Charged with felony theft over $1,500 is 17-year-old Juan Maximillian Gonzalez of Austin. He was in the Travis County Jail on Friday and bond is set at $10,000, records show.

Early on the morning of March 17, members of the band returned to where they had parked their van at 8th St. and Chalmers and found only broken glass in the street. The arrest warrant shows police had earlier towed the vehicle after a security guard working at nearby Huston-Tillotson University called suspecting the 1999 Ford Econo van had been broken into.

When band members got the van back, they realized $11,000 worth of guitars, amps, foot pedals and other equipment was gone. They set up a Go Fund Me account which has quickly raised more than $7,000 in donations to help replace the gear, some of which the band owned for years and had sentimental value.

“When you play an instrument almost your entire life, you really get to know it well. The only reason we miss these objects are the memories we built with them,” band member Joe Regan told KXAN’s Amanda Brandeis in March.

Attention Craigslist shoppers

A man shopping on Craigsliston on March 31 saw a white Fender Stratocaster for sale for $250. After meeting Gonzalez in a downtown HEB parking lot he realized the instrument was worth far more. Speaking to Gonzalez, he noticed the young seller knew nothing about the instrument. Gonzalez also showed the man a photo of a black Gibson Les Paul guitar, the affidavit states. He told Gonzalez he wasn’t interested and drove away.

Later that evening, the man received a text from Gonzalez which contained a photo of foot pedals mounted on a power board. The seller was wanting to know if he knew what those items were worth and if he knew of anyone who might want the items “for cheap,” according to the affidavit.

The man then posted his own ad on Craigslist looking for anyone who recently had guitars and music equipment stolen. An email in response led him to The Jag’s webpage where he saw photos of what appeared to be the same guitars he had been offered, right down to a chip in the finish near the top strap of the Fender.

The man called Gonzalez back and said he had changed his mind. Gonzalez said he had only the Gibson guitar left. This time, Austin Police officers accompanied him to the rendezvous. “Gonzalez was spotted walking in the HEB parking lot carrying a guitar that appeared to be the stolen Gibson guitar. Periodically, Gonzalez would stop and crouch behind a parked car and then raise his head above the parked cars to look around as if to make sure no one could see him,” the affidavit shows. “This is not the normal activity of someone conducting a legitimate Craigslist sell/buy.”

Gonzalez was arrested and asked for his lawyer, the affidavit states. He then said if he was released he could take police to where the remaining stolen property was. Police reminded Gonzalez he had already invoked his right to have an attorney present. He declined to waive that right, the arrest record shows. Only the black Gibson Les Paul, valued at $4,000, has been recovered.

At SXSW in 2014, KXAN reported the theft of a band’s trailer during a show. Police say they do all they can to protect personal property. But parked vehicles can still be vulnerable to break-ins. Authorities remind vehicle owners to always park in well-lit, well-traveled or patrolled areas, leave valuables covered or out of sight and to lock up and roll up windows and moon roofs before they leave.

The Austin Police Monthly Reporting for March 2014 shows 2,433 thefts citywide, down slightly from 2,691 in March the year before. Downtown, police received 311 theft reports during the month the 10-day SXSW festival is held. Compare that number to 339 thefts in 2013.

KXAN investigated the sale of stolen items on local Facebook pages. Those items include firearms taken in home burglaries. Austin Police are having such success finding crooks online, they are planning to hire a full-time detective to scour social media for leads.

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