Rare Book Thieves Sentenced to House Arrest

According to Paula Reed Ward at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Judge Alexander P. Bicket sentenced John Schulman, owner of Caliban Book Shop, to 12 years probation, with 4 years house arrest. Greg Priore, the archivist of Carnegie Library rare books room received 12 years probation with 3 years house arrest.

The pair previously pleaded guilty to stealing more than $8 million worth of rare books, maps and plates over a period of 25 years from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

As Kayla Epstein reported, prosecutors say the scheme ran from 1992 to 2017, during which time Priore would steal the rare texts from the library's R. Oliver Special Collections Room — sometimes simply walking right out of the building with them, prosecutors said — and pass them along to Schulman, who would sell them at his store and online.

While a multi-year house arrest might sound like a stiff sentence, one wonders how an $8 million thievery scheme perpetrated over 25 years only warrants house arrest and probation. It's hardly a deterrent to future thefts of this sort.

Priore, the former archivist at the Carnegie Library, pleaded guilty to one count of theft by unlawful taking and one count of receiving stolen property. In exchange for the plea, the state dropped eight other charges against him.

Schulman, a shopkeeper of the well-regarded Caliban Books, pleaded guilty to one count of receiving stolen property, one count of theft by deception, and one count of forgery, also in exchange for a number of charges being dropped.

Of his crimes, the archivist Priore told investigators, "I should have never done this. I loved that room my whole working life." He admitted that he knew there would be “fallout down the line” from his actions. “Greed overcame me," said Priore. Incredibly, just days before sentencing, Priore changed his tune and professed his innocence, claiming to supporters that he took a deal because he believed he was unlikely to overcome the twenty charges against him. He did, however, apologize to the court alongside his co-defendant, Schulman.

Access overcame him, too. Priore is yet another in a long line of people entrusted with the care of precious cultural property who betrayed that trust and profited from his ability to have unfettered access to valuables. Again, an insider was behind a major haul of stolen goods.

For an interesting look at the Priore/Schulman crimes, check out Karen Yuan's piece in The Atlantic.

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