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$22K flute left on Blue Line train recovered from Chicago pawn shop, returned to traveling musician

“I’m just thankful that I have the flute in my hand, that I can make music again and I can make people smile,” said Donald Rabin.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Following days of searching, the mystery of a missing $22,000 flute that was left on a CTA Blue Line train has been solved.

Donald Rabin, a flutist from Missouri who was visiting Chicago, frantically began searching for the flute after leaving it on a train seat when he hopped off last Friday in Logan Square. As Chicago police searched for the pricy woodwind, left to Rabin by his grandmother, the musician’s pleas for help on Facebook grabbed the attention of local and national news outlets — and the person who found it.

Rabin said Lukas Mcentee, a homeless man who scooped up the flute, commented on one of his Facebook posts Tuesday with a photo of the instrument. After Mcentee texted him saying he found the flute and sent a receipt showing he had used it as collateral for a $500 loan at a West Town pawn shop, Rabin grew leery and alerted detectives.

“He was telling me that we needed to go to the pawn shop together. I would need to pay [back the loan] and I’ll retrieve the instrument that way,” Rabin said in a text message to the Sun-Times. “But I did not want that to happen.”

Gabe Coconate, the owner of West Town Jewelry & Loan, said Mcentee contacted him on Saturday saying he had “a rare flute.” When Mcentee came in later that day, Coconate said he told him it was made of silver and gold.

“I had never seen something like that before. I didn’t even think it was gold,” Coconate said, noting that he told Mcentee he needed to verify it was real.

Coconate said he agreed to give Mcentee the $500 “on a loan” and to meet again on Monday. Then on Sunday night, Coconate saw the news coverage about Rabin’s search for the flute.

“My wife goes, ‘That’s not the flute that came in?’ And I’m like, ‘Son of a b----, yes it is. That is the flute,’” he said.

On Monday, Coconate called the cops and told them he had the instrument and wanted to turn it in. Mcentee returned a couple of more times, but Coconate said he remained in touch with police, who told him to hold onto it.

“I go, ‘Listen man, it’s been all over the news. It’s not your flute,’” Coconate recalled.

After the detective picked up the flute on Wednesday, Coconate saw Mcentee on the news.

“This guy’s playing it up like a hero. ... And meanwhile, I’m out $500 for doing the right thing,” Coconate said.

Mcentee, who is seeking donations through a GoFundMe to rent an apartment for himself and his wife, didn’t respond to a request for comment. Once the flute was recovered, Rabin thanked him in a Facebook post and urged his followers to support the crowdfunding effort. Coconate said he hasn’t spoken to Rabin.

Ultimately, Rabin was reunited with his cherished instrument during a news conference Thursday at the 14th District police station.

“Not playing the flute every day is something that I’m not used to. I’m used to always practicing and I just have to say thank you to all these amazing, wonderful human beings who are here today that helped me along the way,” Rabin said, praising the cops before closing out the event by playing “Over the Rainbow.”

“I’m just thankful that I have the flute in my hand, that I can make music again and I can make people smile,” he later told the Sun-Times.