FBI Seattle
Public Affairs Specialist Ayn Dietrich-Williams
(206) 622-0460
June 2, 2015

Former Chihuly Company Employee Charged for Stealing $3 Million in Artwork

The following release was issued by the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

TACOMA, WA—Today Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist charged a former Chihuly Company employee for stealing more than $3 million worth of artwork by Tacoma glass artist Dale Chihuly. Christopher Robert Kaul, 38, has been charged with theft in the first degree and trafficking stolen property in the first degree.

In September 2014, an art appraiser contacted the Chihuly Company regarding three pieces of artwork that were brought in for appraisal. Employees determined the pieces were missing from the company’s warehouse. An audit was conducted, which found that 90 pieces were missing. The total value is more than $3 million.

The company tracked the stolen items back to Kaul, who had sold them for a small fraction of their worth. Kaul told police he was addicted to pills and needed drug money.

“We’ve seen this story before—an employee is hooked on drugs and steals from his boss,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “The twist here is the boss is a world famous artist.”

A private investigator, hired by the Chihuly Company, has recovered nearly half of the stolen artwork from buyers who returned the items.

“If a deal sounds too good to be true,” said Lindquist, “it probably is.”

A summons has been issued for Kaul to appear for arraignment on June 15, 2015 at 8:30 a.m. in room 270 of the County-City Building in Tacoma.

Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case is being investigated by the FBI.

Media Contact:
Heather Songer
Communications and Public Information Coordinator
Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office