ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) - A mixed martial arts fighter who made a name for himself in local radio is in trouble with the law.
Police say he tried to sell stolen comic books valued at tens of thousands of dollars to undercover deputies.
An appraiser says Rick Bastuba tried getting what is considered the Holy Grail of comic books: the first appearance of Batman. According to appraiser Randall Paul, Bastuba was willing to do anything to get his hands on it.
Paul said Bastuba wanted the issue of "Detective Comics" from his client because the last time one sold at an auction it went for a million dollars..
Bastuba, an MMA fighter who can be seen in YouTube videos uploaded by WRIF’s Drew and Mike show, was dubbed Righteous Rick back in 2009 by the popular radio talk show hosts after he put an unruly Lions' fan in a sleeper hold at a game.
“Rick is an MMA fighter, and I don't know what he could have done,” Paul says. “The victim is an older gentleman, and, you know, again, he could have killed him. “
The victim, a Washtenaw County man is an avid collector, who had his home broken into several times. The thieves stole several expensive comic books and five different, one-of-a-kind, Dick Tracy comic strips, all worth thousands of dollars.
Bastuba and his underage teenager son and his son’s friend were arrested in the area at the time of the break-ins.
They were arrested on weapons charges, caught in camouflage with guns, ropes and Tasers in their vehicle.
Paul says his friend suspected Bastuba of the thefts, but they could never prove it. But they believe they can now.
When Bastuba was arrested for the second time Thursday, it was at a Biggby Coffee shop in Ann Arbor. He allegedly tried to sell the unique Dick Tracy comic strips that had been stolen, to undercover deputies. They recovered some, but not all of the pieces.
Two Dick Tracy comic strips are still out there, but not worth as much as stolen merchandise. One of them contains the villain Mrs. Pruneface.
“It’s forever going to be tainted now as being a stolen piece,” says Paul. Paul hopes the comics can be found or returned if they were sold. He says they are priceless to the collector who grew up reading Dick Tracy in the newspaper.
Bastuba is being held in the Washtenaw County Jail and he'll go before a judge Friday for an arraignment.
Paul says the million dollar Batman comic book was never stolen. He believes it was securely locked in a bank safety deposit box.
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