2 charged in $5 million heist at Buzbee's home appear in court

HOUSTON – Two men who have been arrested in connection with a theft of artwork and jewelry from Houston mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee’s home nearly three months ago made their first appearance in court Thursday.

Nicholas Johnson, 36, and Julian Franklin, 30, were each charged with second-degree burglary of a habitation.

At Franklin’s hearing, prosecutors said he tried to sell a woman one of the Rolexes and some artwork that was among the $5 million in items that were stolen from Buzbee’s home Feb. 4. The woman told investigators that she had worked with Franklin in the “drug business” for several years and that he admitted to her that he was involved in the break-in.

RELATED: What was stolen from Buzbee's home?

Prosecutors said the woman contacted Buzbee to let him know about the items Franklin was selling.
“(Buzbee) said Jazmine texted him several images – all of which appeared to be images of property that was stolen during the burglary of his house,” prosecutors said.

The woman later helped investigators during a sting operation aimed at arresting Franklin, prosecutors said.

“Jazmine spoke with the defendant while officers listened,” prosecutors said. “Officers hear (Franklin) negotiate a deal with Jazmine to sell (Buzbee’s) stolen property.”

VIDEO: Franklin appears in court

At Johnson's hearing, prosecutors said that during the phone the woman's phone call to Franklin, Johnson was indicated as being in possession of some of the items that were stolen. 

Prosecutors said the woman later met with Johnson and Franklin and was told that the Rolex watch in which she was interested had already been sold, but there was another high-end watch they could sell her.

VIDEO: Johnson appears in court

Both Franklin and Johnson were not granted bond and are being held in jail.

In a Facebook post, Buzbee said that three people had been arrested in connection with the case, but KPRC2 has not yet independently confirmed a third arrest.

“I want to thank the Houston Police Department for making three arrests in the burglary of my home. The investigation continues in trying to locate all the stuff stolen, which includes my Aggie ring. After I authorized the offering of a $50,000 reward, an individual who claimed to have info contacted my law office. After a lot of foolishness and misdirection, and with cooperation and instruction of the police, as well as great work by the lead detective, the suspects were finally identified and located. I’m told the three suspects are gang members and have been involved in at least three other burglaries. I’m of course hoping for convictions and recovery of the things taken. For those that expressed condolences when this traumatic event first happened, thank you. For those that didn’t, I hope that nothing like this ever happens to you, especially when you are home with two of your kids like I was.”

After the burglary, Buzbee said he was able to chase away at least one of the intruders with a gun.

"I drew down on him,” Buzbee said in February. “The biggest mistake I made is I chose wrong. I chose a .22 (caliber), which is a crappy weapon, but in any event, I pulled the trigger and it misfired. I thought it dry-fired, and I jacked another round into the chamber, and he ran.”

The burglary was just the most recent incident at Buzbee's home. In December 2017, a woman named Lindy Lou Layman was accused of ripping Buzbee’s paintings off the wall and pouring liquid on them, among other things, according to court records.

The incident caused at least $300,000 worth of damage to three original paintings and two abstract sculptures, records show. 

Layman, of Dallas, was charged with criminal mischief.

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