US prosecutors have charged a man with stealing the famous red slippers worn by Judy Garland’s character Dorothy in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.
The valuable shoes were found in an FBI operation in 2018 – after being taken from a museum in August 2005 – but no arrests were made at the time.
On Tuesday, federal prosecutors charged Minnesota man Terry Martin, 76, with theft of a major artwork.
The recovered slippers are one of four pairs in existence.
The shoes were taken from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, by a thief who had smashed through a window in the building’s back door to get inside. No fingerprints were left behind and no alarm went off, according to CBS News.
They were found in a sting operation launched by the FBI’s art crime team. The case is being handled by federal prosecutors in North Dakota and the FBI’s Minneapolis Division.
The red shoes are central to The Wizard of Oz. When Dorothy clicks the heels of the shoes together and says “there’s no place like home” she is transported back to Kansas.
Charging documents released on Tuesday contained no information about what led to Mr Martin’s arrest. On Wednesday, Martin told a reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “I gotta go on trial. I don’t want to talk to you.”
The newspaper notes that Mr Martin lives about 12 miles from the museum, which is located at the childhood home of Judy Garland.
Museum executive director Janie Heitz said she does not think the suspect was ever an employee of the museum.
The treasured items of Hollywood memorabilia have been valued at $3.5m, said the US Attorney’s Office for the District of North Dakota, adding that they were insured for $1m when they were stolen nearly 18 years ago.
Another pair of the red sequined slippers are at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and another pair was acquired in 2012 by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences.
The stolen slippers are still in the custody of the FBI.