- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2020

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Sometimes, people recognize Patrick Spikes out in public and stop to ask, “Aren’t you that guy who stole stuff from Disney?”

Spikes’ legal troubles were an internet sensation after the 25-year-old was accused of taking items from the theme parks and selling them on the Internet. One of his high-profile customers, court records revealed, was NBA player Robin Lopez.

“I don’t think I’m as bad a guy as people think I am,” the former Disney World employee said in a recent phone interview with the Orlando Sentinel, the first time he has talked with the newspaper since his Feb. 4 plea deal.

The first thing strangers usually ask is “How did you get away with it?”

“I really didn’t,” Spikes said.



Under the plea deal, Spikes pleaded no contest to dealing stolen property. He has already paid his required $25,308 in restitution, which includes $10,700 to Lopez and $6,703 to Disney, court records show. He also performed 250 hours of community service.

The state attorney’s office originally had charged Spikes with burglary at Epcot and the Magic Kingdom as well as grand theft and trafficking in stolen Haunted Mansion costumes, according to court records.

LOPEZ ON TAPE

Lopez, who has stayed silent during the criminal proceedings and declined previous requests for comment, talked about how he first connected with Spikes during a 15-minute interview recorded in May 2019 with the Orange County Sheriff’s office with his attorney listening in. The Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office released the audio after a Sentinel public records request.

The Milwaukee Bucks center first noticed Spikes’ eBay post advertising a “panel from Epcot of some kind.”

“He had posted an item that was kind of intriguing to me as a collector,” Lopez said. “I messaged him asking about the price and asking if he had anything else similar to that.”

On the phone, Spikes told Lopez he also had headphones, a jacket and a hat worn by the Buzzy animatronic who once appeared in Epcot’s retired Cranium Command attraction.

“That was a really exciting prospect,” Lopez appeared to say, his words sounding slightly muffled on the audio. “I had asked him, ‘Where did it come from? How did he get it?’ I always wanted to make sure it was on (the) level. And I had been told that he got it from a cast member or Imagineer … who had worked there and it was given to them.”

Lopez, who never met Spikes in person, plunked down $8,000 for the animatronic’s costume via PayPal in 2018, he said.

His attention also turned to other memorabilia from rides that had been closed for years at Disney World.

Lopez said he paid “a couple thousand” for a sign that appeared at the Great Movie Ride in Hollywood Studios and $500 for another sign that references a general on it from the Cranium Command attraction. He also bought a Disney employee uniform “for a couple hundred bucks,” he told the sheriff’s office.

“You know that we’re missing the Buzzy animatronic itself, right?” the sheriff’s detective said in the interview last year. “Through the news or through rumor, I don’t know if you’ve heard about that?”

“I heard about the rumor, yeah,” Lopez said.

“Yes, that actually is stolen,” the detective said, pressing Lopez if he ever heard Spikes mention it or if the NBA player knew any information to help authorities track it down.

“No, sorry. I never heard anything about that,” Lopez said, adding next he was willing to press criminal charges against Spikes.

WHERE IS BUZZY?

In an interview with the Sentinel, Spikes denied stealing Buzzy, an animatronic valued at $400,000, according to previously released court records. He pointed out his stature; Spikes is listed at 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds in his arrest warrant.

“It’d be ridiculous to steal a 300-pound animatronic,” Spikes said, adding he believes Disney misplaced it and has stayed silent to avoid embarrassing media coverage. Disney did not respond to a request for comment.

When the Sentinel requested records into Spikes’ criminal case, the sheriff’s office released a partially redacted list of recovered Disney items, including what appears to be listed as “animatronic head” from the Carousel of Progress worth $35,000. Spikes wasn’t charged in connection with those recovered items.

Spikes argued he was unfairly depicted as a scheming thief, sneaking into Disney through underground tunnels to steal the items. In reality, he said he took advantage of what he called lax security at Disney to get access backstage.

“Anybody could do it,” he said. “Walmart has better security than Disney.”

Spikes also said he didn’t realize the gravity of selling stolen items from Disney.

“I wasn’t sitting here, (thinking) that’s a second-degree felony, 15 years in prison,” Spikes said, remembering the day he said he mistook the door knock for the pizza deliveryman. Instead, it was authorities coming to arrest him, he said.

“I’ve learned my lesson. That (expletive) sucks, being scrutinized by the media, having to go the courtroom,” he said.

CASE STILL OPEN

The criminal case against Spikes is closed, but the Orange County Sheriff’s Office still hasn’t released all the records. Some documents aren’t public because they are related to another ongoing criminal investigation, the sheriff’s attorney told the Sentinel’s attorney. The sheriff’s office said other records, including blacked-out emails with Disney, are confidential under state law because they are about Disney’s security plan.

The state attorney’s office already has charged at least two other people in connection with Spikes.

Spikes’ cousin, Blaytin Touton, also avoided jail time in the February plea deal.

And there’s also the case of Alicia Reese, a 36-year-old who at the time had been working as a Disney hotel restaurant waitress and at Universal.

Last year, Disney security investigators confronted her about “removing items” from the parks when she wasn’t supposed to be working. She admitted to taking a ride manual, although it’s not clear from which attraction, according to her arrest affidavit. She also later told the sheriff’s office she snuck into Epcot and Magic Kingdom “entering a hatch on the side of a locked room” to try to steal things.

However, she wasn’t charged with theft.

She had secretly recorded her first conversation with Disney security and then shared it with Spikes, the arrest affidavit said. Reese was charged with a third-degree felony of unlawful interception of wire/oral communications. Last month, she agreed to do 100 hours of community service as part of a pre-trial intervention program, court records show. The case is now closed.

Spikes also recruited “at least one other” woman to help steal items from the parks, Reese’s arrest affidavit also said. The sheriff’s office said it has forwarded burglary and theft charges to the state attorney’s office but the woman has not yet been charged with a crime, according to online court records.

As for Spikes, he said he’s moved on with his life.

He said he now lives in North Florida, owns a business, although he declined to elaborate, and tries to avoid social media. He is banned from Disney theme parks, but he hopes the company will lift the trespass order someday.

“It’s over now,” Spikes said. “I’m living life. I’m doing my thing.”

He still hasn’t lost his affinity for theme park memorabilia.

“I’m still a collector,” Spikes said who recently bought an animatronic head from “It’s A Small World” and a Buzzy animation drawing through what he said was a legal online auction.

“I’m definitely keeping my receipts,” he added.

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