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>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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