IDYLLWILD: Alleged tip jar thief arrested after officials receive different type of tips

IDYLLWILD — After a nearly two-week investigation and search, sheriff’s officials announced they located and arrested a man accused of stealing a donation/tip jar from a well-known and award-winning Idyllwild area harpist.

“Investigators received information the subject was hiding inside a vacant residence located in the 53000 block of Country Club Drive,” Riverside Sheriff’s Sergeant Robert Duckett explained in a written press release after Kellner’s arrest. He was located about 6:30 p.m. and subsequently arrested shortly before 7 p.m., according to sheriff officials and jail records.Following citizens’ tips, investigators from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Hemet Station located and arrested Michael McRae Kellner, 23, of Idyllwild. He was arrested Wednesday, Sept. 27.

Kellner was booked into the Cois Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta on suspicion of theft, narcotic use and violation of probation, according to Duckett, who said, “Investigators believe Kellner is responsible for other crimes in the Idyllwild area, and are continuing their investigation.”

The donation/tip jar theft investigation began Friday, Sept. 15, about 6:20 p.m., when deputies were notified regarding the incident.

During their initial investigation, deputies learned Christian Chalifour, an Idyllwild area harpist, had been performing near Fairway Market and the Idyllwild Library in Strawberry Creek Plaza when a man approached and stole a donation jar Chalifour had set out.

Chalifour later thanked Idyllwild-area residents for their “generous outpouring of love and support” after the theft. Chalifour/Facebook image

Deputies gathered information and developed leads from several witnesses that helped them identify Kellner as the alleged theft suspect; however, they were not immediately successful in locating him.

Investigators from the Hemet Station eventually assumed the investigation and “surveilled the suspect’s known whereabouts” in their efforts to locate and question him about the reported theft, Duckett explained.

In an ironic twist, it was citizens’ tips that eventually led to the alleged tip jar thief’s whereabouts and ultimate arrest.

An online jail records search revealed Kellner remains in custody and is being held without bail. He is scheduled to be seen at an unspecified court Sept. 29.

In a Facebook post after the theft, Chalifour – who has played aboard cruise ships, in hotels and at restaurants around the world; including Tokyo, Paris, Vienna and London – said, “Who would’ve thought that someone would dash by this evening and steal my tip jar while I was playing in front of Fairway Market, right here on my home turf in Idyllwild.”

“While it was only $40 or so, I feel personally violated,” said Chalifour.

Chalifour later thanked Idyllwild-area residents for their “generous outpouring of love and support” after the theft.

Anyone with information about this incident, or incidents related to Kellner or his activities is encouraged to call Investigator Porrazzo at (951) 791-3400. Callers can refer to incident file number D172580057 and can remain anonymous. Citizens may also submit a tip using the Sheriff’s CrimeTips online form.

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