02/06/2002 at 01:00 AM EST
Even before the Winter Olympics kick off on Friday, some robbers in Los Angeles went for the gold -- in their case, Whoopi Goldberg's Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her 1990 movie "Ghost." The Whoopster, 46, who is scheduled to host this year's ceremony on March 24, had sent her statuette back to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to be cleaned and re-plated by the manufacturer, reports the Associated Press. That was the last she saw of it. According to reports, the academy wrapped up the prize and shipped it Friday by United Parcel Service, but its container was empty when it arrived Tuesday at R.S. Owens Co. of Chicago, the company that produces the statues. The academy said in a statement that it was taken from a UPS shipping package. Someone apparently opened the package, removed the Oscar, then resealed the container, said Goldberg's spokesman, Brad Cafarelli, who also said that UPS officials told him that a security guard at the Ontario, Calif., airport found the Oscar in a trash bin. A UPS spokeswoman confirmed the recovery, but didn't know whether or not the statuette was actually in the rubbish, saying that the case remains under investigation. All's well that ends well, however: UPS returned the Oscar to the academy, which plans to return it to Goldberg, who has abandoned plans to have it cleaned. "Oscar will never leave my house again," she declared in a statement.