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Monday, May 05 2014 03:31 PM

Investigators looking into whether ad for 'human skin' wallet was real

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Investigators have not yet been able to track down the person who posted the Bakersfield Craigslist ad selling a wallet allegedly made of human skin retrieved from a Nazi concentration camp.

Kern County sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt said Monday the case has been referred to a senior deputy in the vice unit to determine not only who posted the ad, but whether the wallet is actually made of human skin.

"If this is in fact true, it's shocking to think someone would be interested in owning this type of property or being involved in this type of transaction," Pruitt said.

A local couple brought the ad to the attention of Frazier Park deputies last week. The post, since removed from the Bakersfield Craigslist site, offered a "Jewish skin" wallet for $12,000.

The post included an image of the wallet and said it was retrieved from Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp where an estimated 32,000 Jews were killed between March 1933 and April 1945.

Prosecutors have said they're not sure what, if any, charges could be brought against whoever posted the ad. Pruitt said he's also not sure what any potential offenses would be, but they're continuing to investigate.

There are a number of websites devoted to Nazi memorabilia. Even the popular online auction site eBay allows the sale of certain Nazi-era items such as stamps and currency.

The site does not, however, allow the sale of uniforms and personal belongings of concentration camp prisoners, and of other Holocaust-related items.

"We recognize the historical significance of World War II and that there are many militaria collectors around the world," a notice on eBay's site reads. "We allow some related historical items, but ban others, particularly those that amount to Nazi propaganda, or that are disrespectful to victims."

Craigslist offers a number of items and services for sale in cities across the country, everything from gardening equipment and motorcycles to childcare and dating. The vast majority of the postings aren't any more controversial than the average online "help wanted" page.

Deputies have investigated certain posts that have been linked to prostitution or attempts to sell stolen items. Pruitt said this post goes beyond anything he's ever heard of.

"After you've done this job for so many years nothing really surprises you anymore, but this is shocking," he said.

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