Local business owner steals blind customer's $225,000 mandolin

2013-08-09T00:00:00Z 2013-08-09T09:06:50Z Local business owner steals blind customer's $225,000 mandolinBy ANNE JUNGEN l ajungen@lacrossetribune.com La Crosse Tribune

A local business owner confessed to stealing a rare mandolin appraised at more than $200,000 from an elderly woman while working inside her La Crosse house, according to police reports.

Wisconsin Bat Specialists Inc. owner Michael Bakke, 62, took the instrument in early June while searching the 87-year-old blind woman’s 13th Street house for bats.

He contacted Heritage Auctions in Texas to list the item he hoped would fetch $5,000. A 2009 appraisal valued the mandolin built in 1923 by Lloyd Loar, the head engineer of Gibson, at $225,000.

“That’s what makes it so valuable,” said Isaiah Evans, director of vintage guitars and musical instruments at Heritage Auctions.

Evans estimates there are only 250 nationwide, though he believes they are worth about $150,000 in the current market.

Police began investigating the theft Sunday when the woman discovered the instrument missing from an upstairs bedroom closet.

She had no suspects other than Bakke, who turned himself in to police the next day.

Bakke told investigators he met with the victim in June to catch a bat living in her house and said he “felt sorry” for her when he learned she was legally blind and living alone in a dwelling in need of repair, reports stated.

The woman asked him to help locate the mandolin in the closet, and Bakke claimed he couldn’t. Instead, he set it next to a window that he unlocked, propped a ladder outside and took it, according to reports.

Bakke told investigators he planned to sell the instrument as a “surprise” to help improve the woman’s living conditions, reports stated.

He realized he made a “huge mistake” when Heritage Auctions offered him a $43,000 down payment. Bakke denied coming forward to police because the woman reported the instrument stolen.

Police and Heritage Auctions are working to return the mandolin.

Police arrested Bakke, of Sparta, on Wednesday for felony theft and released him on a signature bond. He will appear Sept. 2 in La Crosse County Circuit Court.

“Michael was extremely cooperative during this incident and apologized several times for his mistakes,” investigators noted. “Michael stated he accepts responsibly for his actions.”

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(17) Comments

  1. mommymommy
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    mommymommy - May 05, 2014 1:50 pm
    The problem is the business is still going strong. People are still hiring this company when there are better bat people out there. We need to stand up for ourselves and not just hire cheap but hire good.
  2. Communitymember
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    Communitymember - August 24, 2013 3:17 pm
    To the Bakke family: I am a current customer under contract for bat removal services in our home. I am sorry to learn of your father's legal troubles, and am going to give you and the other business owners the benefit of the doubt in continuing to service our home. I have left phone messages and emails regarding our needs since your father's arrest. If, as you say, you hope that this "incident" does not negatively affect your family business please continue to respond to the customer's needs!
  3. Mike Hammer
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    Mike Hammer - August 14, 2013 7:00 pm
    I understand the shame of the children and their pleas here for understanding. Unfortunately, actions like this do have consequences. You do understand that your father's behavior indicates this was probably an ongoing enterprise and will negatively affect your business (good will and protestations notwithstanding).

    A very wise woman told me something as I was going through a similar hell:
    "Sometimes things come into our lives to make bigger people of us"
  4. BatGirl
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    BatGirl - August 10, 2013 9:21 pm
    I am not defending my father or his actions, I am asking society to please not judge our family and friends that represent Wisconsin Bat Specialist. I do not condone, support or promote his actions. I have raised my children to know that theft is wrong. Quite honestly, whatever financial repercussions go towards my father (the person whom committed this crime), can never compare to the non financial lessons. Like I stated openly in my previous comment.... "Ashamed" doesn't begin to fit this bill.
  5. Civility
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    Civility - August 10, 2013 6:25 pm
    What kind of monster has his children defend his actions! A truly ridiculous plea if the posts are real. The article speaks for itself as far as I see it. Its seems when his actions affect his business(money) then its horrible for him. What a hypocrite. He STOLE. I look forward to the court processing of this lowlife.
  6. BatGirl
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    BatGirl - August 10, 2013 9:51 am
    Reading this report breaks my heart and reading the comments equally hurts. If a person reads this story and does not feel sick to their stomach, they are heartless. With that being expressed, I too, am a child of Michael J. Bakkes.... I am devastated by my fathers actions and the effect it has had on our family's business. My uncle, my siblings, my cousins and numerous family members and family friends have put their heart and soul into giving Wisconsin Bat Specialist a great name. They have provided exceptional service to many homes, businesses and places of gathering throughout the entire United States. It is truly amazing to me how one persons actions can hurt so many innocent people and destroy a lifetime of dedication. "Ashamed" doesn't begin to fit this bill.....
  7. Robin
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    Robin - August 10, 2013 9:11 am
    My name is Michael A. Bakke, I am son of Wisconsin Bat Specialist Michael J Bakke, we have provided services for 30+ years Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. I hope that we will continue to be providing services to other clients in this region. My father has done thousands of homes, schools and other public places, to where I myself have done hundreds. I hope will not reflect badly on Wisconsin Bat Specialis members.
  8. Monteee
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    Monteee - August 09, 2013 11:16 pm
    LOL.....good one!
  9. greater
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    greater - August 09, 2013 7:12 pm
    The guy is a crook & his "business" is a sham. No doubt about it. But what is a blind 87 year old woman doing living alone? Doesn't she have any relatives to take care of her? I know who she is and I don't think she is poor. So if she doesn't have any relatives I'll bet she has a lawyer or an accountant taking care of her affairs. What low life would take her money and not make her go somewhere where she can get some assistance? This is just sick.
  10. superman
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    superman - August 09, 2013 3:22 pm
    Maybe this guy is a WELS member, and felt she needed to be spoken for.
  11. Napoleon
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    Napoleon - August 09, 2013 1:50 pm
    Re: "Bakke told investigators he planned to sell the instrument as a “surprise” to help improve the woman’s living conditions"

    If a businessman genuinely wanted to improve an 87-year-old woman's living conditions, he would have simply handed her some cash... out of his own pocket.

    Suppose someone thought my house was a bit run down and wanted to truly help. Would they choose to surreptitiously sell my car by snatching the keys, then show up two long months later with the cash proceeds as a surprise?

    Yeah, Bakke, that's some "help" ya got there! No $$$ proffered out of your own pocket, just mandolin money that's rightly hers, and not yours!

    Thirty-plus years ago, someone stole my new bike during HS football practice. Or, at least I thought it was stolen. Thanks to Mr. Bakke, I have seen the light: any day now, the person who appropriated my bike is going to show up with the cash proceeds. Maybe to help put me thru college? Any day now... ya gotta have faith!
  12. cowboy hooli
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    cowboy hooli - August 09, 2013 10:14 am
    Really classy Bakke. If I were a previous customer of yours and was missing anything, I would be calling the police now. You are right up there with that DeClute loser and I truly hope you lose your business. Knowing you will only get a slap on the wrist makes me sick!
  13. a mother too
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    a mother too - August 09, 2013 8:06 am
    This is not a "mistake" this was THEFT!! A mistake might be "Oh, I am so sorry, one of the strings busted when I moved it" Taking someone's property is THEFT!! Who do you think you are to take her property and decide for your self what to auction off and then claim to use the funds to "make repairs" on her home. If he is willing to steal something of this size, then who knows what else he may have 'mistakenly' put in his pockets!?
  14. gremus
    Report Abuse
    gremus - August 09, 2013 7:56 am
    Has anyone seen the 2011 movie "Thin Ice" about an insurance agent in Kenosha, WI who's involved in stealing a violin from an elderly man through a very elaborate plot? Quite the parallel here!
  15. Seriously Now
    Report Abuse
    Seriously Now - August 09, 2013 6:44 am
    "He realized he made a huge mistake” Good people realize it would an a huge mistake to steal - before they do it. Creeps realize it later. Sociopaths never realize it.
  16. Nugget
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    Nugget - August 09, 2013 6:07 am
    If he'll steal from the blind lady, he has done it more than once.
  17. Shawn Daily
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    Shawn Daily - August 09, 2013 12:35 am
    Bakke told investigators he planned to sell the instrument as a “surprise” to help improve the woman’s living conditions, reports stated.

    Yeah right! You should be ashamed of yourself Mr. Bakke.
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