Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2017 Issue

Scientist Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Government of Half a Million Dollars to Buy Books

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Daniel M. Alongi (photo from ResearchGate).

An Australian scientist with a long resume of published works has pleaded guilty to defrauding the government of over half a million Australian dollars, primarily to purchase books. Dr. Daniel Michael Alongi, an American native who obtained his undergraduate degree at City College of New York, and his Ph. D. from the University of Georgia, has worked in Australia since 1985. From 1985-2015, when he was suspended pending resolution of the charges, he was employed by the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences. It was there that he issued numerous false claims for reimbursement of funds for non-existent purchases.

 

Dr. Alongi has an extensive number of publications according to his ResearchGate page – 186 in all. He also has a long number of false claims for reimbursement of purchases on his resume according to the Townsville District Court – 129 of them. Along with about $50,000 Australian of legitimate claims, there were 129 false ones totaling $553,420 (or about $450,000 in U.S. dollars). Dr. Alongi was paid around $100,000 per year in salary, but this was insufficient to cover his appetite for books. Some will understand the appetite if not the means of satisfying it.

 

According to the prosecutor, Alongi created or modified invoices, credit card statements, receipts and the like. He forged the signature of his supervisor a minimum of 25 times. It was evidently her recognizing the forged signatures of her name that led to Alongi's arrest.

 

Judge Kiernan Dorney explained that he used the money to buy rare books, making many purchases on Amazon. One was a $15,000 purchase of one of the accounts of 18th century explorer James Cook, the most famous seafaring explorer of Australia and the Pacific. Still, the precise motivation of Alongi is hard to fathom. He was not selling the books for profit or to launder the fraudulently obtained funds. Nor was he a collector in the sense of being truly passionate about rare books, the classic bibliophile. According to the Townsville Bulletin, Judge Dorney offered the following hard-to-understand observation about the defendant - "What he bought was things that he did not need. It wasn’t an addiction such as gambling, or spending on his own lifestyle, it seemed to be bizarre things — I think you could say ridiculous things." We presume that the Judge meant that stealing money to purchase books, considering Alongi's unclear interest in them, was ridiculous, not that books in themselves are ridiculous things.

 

Defense attorney Justin Greggary had his own explanation for Alongi's strange behavior. He provided the court with a psychiatric report saying the defendant suffered from bipolar disorder. According to that report, the condition caused Dr. Alongi, during manic times, to go on "unrestrained buying sprees." Finally, we have a "scientific" explanation for bibliomania. That diagnosis notwithstanding, the Judge sentenced Alongi to 3 ½ years in prison, though he will be eligible for parole in six months. He had previously paid back the misappropriated funds from his pension account, in which the 60-year-old scientist had accumulated $900,000.

 

This unfortunate case did bring out a chorus of "I told you so's," though not from the usual list of suspects, such as people who think the government wastes money, those who think we are too soft on crime, nor even spouses of book collectors. Instead, it brought out many responses from climate change deniers. Alongi specialized in coastal environments, reefs, mangroves, and the climate of the area. Like most scientists, he concluded from his observations that the climate was changing. For the deniers, Alongi's fraudulent billing of the government represented convincing evidence that climate change is also a fraud. It was as if a finding that Galileo embezzled government funds proved the sun revolves around the earth after all. It's a strange argument, but as any climatologist will tell you, any port in a storm.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

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