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 recovered 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 the 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 broken a window in the building’s back door to gain entry. No fingerprints were left and no alarm was raised, according to CBS News, the BBC’s US partner.
They were found in a sting operation launched by the FBI’s Art Crime Squad. 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 her shoes together and says “there’s no place like home”, she is transported back to Kansas.
Charging documents released on Tuesday did not contain any information about what led to Mr Martin’s arrest. On Wednesday, Martin told a reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “I have to go to court. I don’t want to talk to you.”
The newspaper notes that Mr. Martin lives about 12 miles from the museum, which is located in Judy Garland’s childhood home.
Museum director Janie Heitz said she does not believe the suspect was ever employed at the museum.
The precious items of Hollywood memorabilia have been valued at $3.5 million.
Another pair of the red sequined slippers is 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.
“Until the legal proceedings are completed, nothing can be done about them,” the museum writes on Facebook.