La Crosse business owner steals valuable mandolin from elderly blind woman

A La Crosse business man confessed to police he stole a rare mandolin appraised at $225,000 from an elderly blind woman.

Michael Bakke, 62, turned himself in Monday and was arrested for felony theft. La Crosse police say the value of the property makes the theft charge a felony.

The woman hired Bakke to remove a bat from her home in early June, according to a La Crosse police report. Bakke is the owner of Wisconsin Bat Specialists.

When Bakke, his wife and mother arrived at the customer’s residence to remove a bat, the homeowner sent Bakke’s wife upstairs to check that her mandolin was still there. Bakke said his wife had a language barrier and offered to go upstairs to help her, the report states.

Bakke told the homeowner he did not see it, but instead moved it next to an upstairs window and later climbed a ladder and took it, according to the police report.


Bakke went to the La Crosse Police Department on Monday and told an officer he had information about the stolen mandolin. He confessed to taking the mandolin because he felt sorry for the elderly woman and thought if he sold it, he would give her the proceeds as a surprise that might help her living situation.

Bakke contacted an auction company in Texas and thought the mandolin would be worth $5,000, the report states. He shipped the mandolin to Texas and realized it was more valuable than he thought and that’s when he went to the police department. The mandolin was valued at $225,000.

The mandolin was not scheduled to be sold in the auction until October 2013. The auction company put the mandolin on hold and told police it would not be sold. The auction employee is working with police to get it shipped back to La Crosse, the police report states.