Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2024 Issue

Book Theft for the “Buzz”

This is a strange case of a book thief who apparently had no need for the money but stole anyway. John Nicolaides, 39, of Stoke-on-Trent, Stratfordshire, England, was recently sentenced in a case going back several years. He was charged with stealing 906 books from numerous libraries and selling them on eBay and Amazon.

 

His modus operandi was to go to libraries, open up accounts, and take out some books. However, the name and details he gave the libraries were fake. One library discovered this when he failed to return 49 books he “borrowed.” When they tried to reach him, they realized his information was fake. StokeonTrentLive quoted prosecutor Howard Searle as explaining, “A member of staff did a search on eBay to see if they could find any of the books. They were able to identify books of the same description that had been listed on eBay within a day or two of them being taken out. They were relatively certain they were the books that had been stolen.” A police officer confirmed that 831 of the missing books had been put up for sale for a total of £19,248 (US $24,500).

 

Police went to Nicolaides' residence and found him to be cooperative. They found many books and loaded up a van with them. They had to trace which libraries they came from, identifying 906 subject to charges. Police also contacted PayPal and Amazon and determined £80,000 had been credited to Nicolaides' accounts. They also found he had listed 3,500 books on Amazon. No explanation was given as to where the much larger number of books and sum of dollars came from, or whether that source was legitimate.

 

What is odd is that Nicolaides apparently was not spending the money he received from the sales of stolen books. He explained that he got a “buzz” out of stealing library books, and once he started, he could not resist stealing again.

 

Omar Majid, mitigating on Nicolaides behalf, said, “He is ashamed of himself. He is of previous good character. The offending was in 2020.” Majid continued that he suffered from autism and alcoholism, but had been sober for 12 months, plus he was caring for his mother, who would suffer seriously if he was imprisoned. Judge Graeme Smith was sympathetic. After Nicolaides pleaded guilty to 12 cases of theft, the Judge sentenced him to 12 months in prison but suspended it for 18 months. In that time he must complete mental health treatment and a rehabilitation requirement consisting of 20 days and 120 hours of unpaid work. Presumably, if he meets those requirements satisfactorily, he will get a second chance. Judge Smith noted that Nicolaides “does not fit the profile of defendants usually in the dock charged with offenses,” adding, “You sold many of the books and received payment for them. However, the money was not spent but sits somewhere in an account.”

 

Next time Nicolaides wants to get a buzz on, he should stick to having a beer.

Rare Book Monthly

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