Priest jailed in theft of Bolivian icon’s jewels

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — A Bolivian judge has ordered a 34-year-old priest jailed in the theft of the sumptuous collection of gem-encrusted gold jewelry that bedecked a statue of the country’s patron saint, the Virgin of Copacabana.

Also under arrest in the case is the female owner of a hostel where the Rev. Jesus Cortes was lodged when the jewels disappeared April 22 from the basilica in the town on Lake Titicaca’s shore.

The jewels removed from the statue, which was carved in 1580, are worth an estimated $1 million.

Cortes was arraigned Wednesday. He lives in the eastern city of Santa Cruz and was helping out while the church’s pastor was abroad.

Authorities say Cortes was the only member of the church staff who was not mysteriously tranquilized the night of the theft.

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