Phong Yang, 36, accused of stealing rare bonsai trees worth thousands – WCCO

Originally published February 25, 2022

HOPKINS, Minn. (WCCO) — A 36-year-old man from Brooklyn Park has been accused of stealing rare and expensive bonsai trees in several incidents over the past year, among other charges.

Investigators say Phong Yang stole bonsai trees worth nearly $14,000 in one incident and worth nearly $8,800 in a different incident – both were caught in the same residence and one of the stolen trees is said to be over 250 years old. Another group of trees was about 80 years old.

St. Louis Park Police and other aid agencies were able to locate Yang after the tree owner placed a GPS tracker on a tree.

“This case is a great example of technology helping local law enforcement track potential suspects and recover valuable property for victims,” Hopkins police reported Friday.

Bonsai is an ancient art form practiced in Japan since the 6th century. It usually features trees or shrubs grown in small containers, and growers spend hours cutting, wiring, and fertilizing the plants to create a unique living display.

READ MORE: Surveillance video captures thieves stealing bonsai trees from St. Paul’s house

When the crimes first occurred late last summer, WCCO spoke with Nicholas Ehlers, outreach director for the Minnesota Bonsai Society. He said that while a new plant from a nursery could cost $10 to $50, a quality tree, like those on display at the Como Zoo and Conservatory, could cost hundreds or thousands.

“Even if it’s not show quality, you still have to put in hours of watering and tending to the trees to get them to this point, which can take years,” he said. -he declares.

Although Ehlers said bonsai thefts don’t happen often in Minnesota, it has happened in the past.

“We are very careful with the information we give out about members for this exact reason,” he said.

Yang faces charges of theft, property damage, possession of a firearm, possession of burglary tools and possession of fifth-degree marijuana. The criminal complaints filed against him also include charges of catalytic converter theft.

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