Police say an Ohio State law student stole books from the Moritz Law Library and sold them on Amazon.com Inc. for almost $10,300.
The suspect has sold about 232 books since becoming a seller in January and still has about 1,351 for sale, according to court documents. Prices range from $15 to $200 per book.
The Lantern will not name the suspect, as he has not yet been charged with a crime.
Detective Peter Dragonette of OSU Police, who is in charge of the case, said the suspect has been taking books from the law library in Drinko Hall for about a year.
A Brazilian attorney was the first to realize something was wrong. Juliana Bertin purchased a law book from Orion Bookstore, an Amazon seller, in July. When she received the book, she noticed crossed-out OSU Moritz Law Library stamps inside the front cover.
Bertin e-mailed Bruce Johnson, associate dean for Information Services at the OSU Moritz College of Law, who confirmed that the law library had the book in its collection and that it should be available. When Johnson checked to see if the book was on the shelf, it was missing.
“The credit to this case goes to” Bertin, Dragonette said, who launched an investigation after Johnson discovered that the book was missing.
Police noticed that many of the books listed for sale by the online seller were available in the law library and were still on the shelves. They also found out from Bertin that the return address for the book she bought was in Columbus.
Dragonette conducted a sting where he told a relative out of state to purchase a book in the law library. Dragonette installed a hidden camera aimed at the aisle containing the book and marked the volume with an ultraviolet pen. The camera captured video of the suspect, a man in athletic shorts and wearing a backpack, taking the book and leaving the building without checking it out. When the out-of-state relative received the book and returned it to Dragonette, police identified it as the volume taken from OSU.
Dragonette said all the stolen books were from the law library.
Police searched the suspect’s residence last week and took a laptop computer and other electronics — as well as a manila envelope containing OSU law library stickers, according to court documents. Detectives interviewed the suspect Tuesday and told him to stop selling books immediately.
Dragonette has been at OSU for 17 years and said he has never seen a case like this. Johnson said he couldn’t remember a similar case, either.
“I cannot say that we’ve never had a book taken from the collection with the intent never to return it and sell it to someone else,” Johnson said. “As far as I know, there has been no previous theft like this.”
Johnson said he was disheartened by the theft.
“Any time that part of the library collection is removed like this, it does have a negative effect, particularly on scholarship,” Johnson said.
If indicted, the suspect will face fourth-degree felony theft charges.
“The plan at this point is for the suspect to make restitution,” Dragonette said. “There’s no way for us to retrieve the books. People all over the country or the world have purchased these books … and it’s not very conceivable to get them back.”
Moritz College of Law representatives and staff would not comment for this story.