MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — The “fortune cat” wasn’t so lucky for three Misawa servicemembers.

Two Misawa sailors and an airman were arrested Thursday on suspicion of attempting to steal a cat statue from outside a Hachinohe city pachinko parlor, according to a Hachinohe police spokesman.

The statue, called maneki neko in Japanese, or literally “beckoning cat,” was worth an estimated 600,000 yen, or about $5,000, according to the spokesman. A common Japanese sculpture, the cat beckons with an upright paw and is believed to bring good luck to the owner.

The spokesman identified the men Friday as sailors Jeremy Saxe, 20, and Jeremy Justine, 22; and airman Nicholes Sample, 21. Their ranks and units were unavailable.

Misawa Air Base officials declined to provide details about the individuals pending completion of the investigation.

Hachinohe police said the men tried to steal the statue around 4:40 a.m. Thursday from the entrance of a Japanese gambling parlor, but were spotted by a driver and ran away.

After a witness reported the incident, police said they found the servicemembers and they voluntarily answered questions. A fourth servicemember was with the others but remained in the car and wasn’t involved in the attempted theft, according to police.

The three servicemembers were arrested at 6 p.m. Thursday and remained in Japanese custody as of Friday. Police were expected to send the case to Aomori District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Hachinohe on Friday.

Misawa Air Base officials said they were cooperating fully with the Hachinohe police department.

“We truly want to work in coordination with them to get to the bottom of what happened and resolve the issue,” 35th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy said Friday.

He added the base takes very seriously the U.S. Forces Japan commander’s policy of “unwavering professionalism” and the late Misawa Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki’s vision of “co-existence and co-prosperity.”

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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