Disappearing Ink: The Insider, the FBI, and the Looting of the Kenyon College Library

Diversion Books
2
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The remarkable true story of the document heist that shocked the world.
 
Like many aspiring writers, David Breithaupt had money problems. But what he also had was unsupervised access to one of the finest special collections libraries in the country.
 
In October 1990, Kenyon College hired Breithaupt as its library’s part-time evening supervisor. In April 2000, he was fired after a Georgia librarian discovered him selling a letter by Flannery O’Connor on eBay, but that was only the tip of the iceberg: for the past ten years, Breithaupt had been browsing the collection, taking from it whatever rare books, manuscripts, and documents caught his eye—W. H. Auden annotated typescripts, a Thomas Pynchon manuscript, and much, much more. It was a large-scale, long-term pillaging of Kenyon College’s most precious works.
 
After he was caught, the American justice system looked like it was about to disappoint the college the way it had countless rare book crime victims before—but Kenyon, refused to let this happen . . .
 
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About the author

TRAVIS MCDADE is a lawyer and librarian, with experience working with rare manuscripts. He is currently the Legal Research columnist for Student Lawyer magazine, an ABA publication for law students. In addition, he is Assistant Professor of Library Administration in the College of Law at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Diversion Books
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Published on
Sep 7, 2015
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Pages
123
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ISBN
9781626818965
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Language
English
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Genres
Antiques & Collectibles / Books
True Crime / Heists & Robberies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The definitive account of one of the most brazen jewel heists in history.

Over Easter weekend 2015, a motley crew of six English thieves, several in their sixties and seventies, couldn’t resist coming out of retirement for one last career-topping heist. Their target: the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit, in the heart of London’s medieval diamond district. “The Firm” included Brian Reader, ringleader and legend in his own mind; Terry Perkins, a tough-as-nails career criminal but also a frail diabetic; Danny Jones, a fitness freak, crime enthusiast, and fabulist; Carl Wood, an extra pair of hands, and definitely more brawn than brains; John “Kenny” Collins, getaway driver, prone to falling asleep on the job; and the mysterious Basil, a red-wigged associate who has only now been identified.

Perhaps not the smoothest of criminals—one took a public bus to the scene of the crime; another read Forensics for Dummies in hopes he would learn how to avoid getting caught—they planned the job over fish and chips at their favorite pubs. They were cantankerous and coarse, dubbed the “Bad Grandpas” by British tabloids, and were often as likely to complain about one another as the current state of the country. Still, these analog thieves in a digital age managed to disable a high-security alarm system and drill through twenty inches of reinforced concrete, walking away with a stunning haul of at least $19 million in jewels, gold, diamonds, family heirlooms, and cash.

Veteran reporter and former London correspondent for the New York Times Dan Bilefsky draws on unrivaled access to the leading officers on the case at the Flying Squad, the legendary Scotland Yard unit that hunted the gang, as well as notorious criminals from London’s shadowy underworld, to offer a gripping account of how these unassuming criminal masterminds nearly pulled off one of the great heists of the century.

No one had ever tried a caper like this before. The goods were kept in a secure room under constant scrutiny, deep inside a crowded building with guards at the exits. The team picked for the job included two old hands known only as Paul and Swede, but all depended on a fresh face, a kid from Pinetown, North Carolina. In the Depression, some fellows were willing to try anything--even a heist in the rare book room of the New York Public Library. In Thieves of Book Row, Travis McDade tells the gripping tale of the worst book-theft ring in American history, and the intrepid detective who brought it down. Author of The Book Thief and a curator of rare books, McDade transforms painstaking research into a rich portrait of Manhattan's Book Row in the 1920s and '30s, where organized crime met America's cultural treasures in dark and crowded shops along gritty Fourth Avenue. Dealers such as Harry Gold, a tough native of the Lower East Side, became experts in recognizing the value of books and recruiting a pool of thieves to steal them--many of them unemployed men who drifted up the Bowery or huddled around fires in Central Park's shantytowns. When Paul and Swede brought a new recruit into his shop, Gold trained him for the biggest score yet: a first edition of Edgar Allan Poe's Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems. Gold's recruit cased the rare-book room for weeks, searching for a weakness. When he found one, he struck, leading to a breathtaking game of wits between Gold and NYPL special investigator G. William Bergquist. Both a fast-paced, true-life thriller, Thieves of Book Row provides a fascinating look at the history of crime and literary culture.
In the spring of 1994, Daniel Spiegelman shinnied up an abandoned book lift in Columbia University's Butler Library, dismantled a wall, stole books, reassembled the wall, and snuck back down the shaft. Over a three-month period he did this more than a dozen times. He eventually escaped to Europe with roughly $1.8 million in rare books, letters and manuscripts. When he was caught in the Netherlands, he tried to avoid extradition to the U.S. by telling the Dutch authorities he was a financier of the Oklahoma City bombing--knowing they wouldn't extradite someone facing the death penalty. Eventually, the FBI got him back to New York, where he finally stood trial for his crimes. Including a retelling of the crimes, dialogue from the court transcripts, and explanations of the legal consequences and intricacies, McDade recounts all the sordid elements of this true crime caper in vivid detail.

In the spring of 1994, Daniel Spiegelman shinnied up an abandoned book lift in Columbia University's Butler Library, dismantled a wall, stole books, reassembled the wall, and snuck back down the shaft. Over a three-month period he did this more than a dozen times. He eventually escaped to Europe with roughly $1.8 million in rare books, letters and manuscripts. When he was caught in the Netherlands, he tried to avoid extradition to the U.S. by telling the Dutch authorities he was a financier of the Oklahoma City bombing-- knowing they wouldn't extradite someone facing the death penalty. Eventually, the FBI got him back to New York, where he finally stood trial for his crimes.

Four years, four attorneys, one determined librarian, numerous court appearances, and one guilty plea after the initial crime took place, a federal judge in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York meted out a sentence that ran counter to the plea agreement, nearly doubling the ordinary sentence for a crime of that magnitude. In so doing, he created a new justification for departure from Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Basing his decision on the potential harm inflicted on society as a whole by the theft of rare and unique elements of our cultural heritage, Judge Kaplan redefined the value of such rare items and justified his sentencing by determining the value to be beyond the monetary realm. McDade recounts all the sordid elements of this true-crime caper in vivid detail, presenting readers with a retelling of the crimes, dialogue from the court transcripts, and explanations of the legal consequences and intricacies. In addition to the significant, overall legal themes, The Book Thief describes two prison escape attempts, one suicide attempt, a jailed defense lawyer, and the aftermath of this unique and interesting case.

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