Arrest Made in Theft of 5,000 Comic Books from Florida State University Library
- by Michael Stillman
The Strozier Library (Florida State Universities Libraries photo).
An arrest has been made in the large comic book theft from the Florida State University Library. Depressingly, as so often the case in library thefts, if police have it right, it was an inside job. Even more depressingly, the insider was in charge of security.
In 1981, the Strozier Library at Florida State University was given the large comic book collection by the late Frances Anne and Robert Ervin, Sr. The collection was named for their son, Robert M. Ervin, Jr., as he was the one who collected the the comics in his youth. It included Marvel Comics, DC Comics, underground comics, foreign language titles, pulp magazines, Big Little Books, posters, prints, artwork, and articles about comic collecting. Most were from the 1950s-1970s. They were not marked as property of FSU, but many had other indicia of their source, such as mailing labels to addresses in Tallahassee, Florida.
Almost 5,000 items were stolen from the collection between March 17, 2020, and February 10, 2021. The loss was first reported last September. After some digging, authorities were able to reach a conclusion.
There were only four keys to a location behind a chain link fence in the library housing the half million dollars worth of comic books. One of those keys was accessible to Todd Peak, head of security for the library. In the time after the theft, Peak began selling comics to local comic stores and collectors. He claimed to be downsizing his collection, but buyers became suspicious of his source. The owner of a comic book shop in Crawfordville became especially suspicious when he realized the comics Peak was selling were on the list of comics missing from the FSU library. Add to that the fact that Peak worked at the library and this was looking like more than a coincidence. When investigators examined Peak's computer, they found he had made 448 searches for information concerning the comics stolen from FSU, many seeking valuations of these titles.
Authorities have recovered 2,843 of the missing books. At least one of them had “Bobby Earvin” written on the inside cover. Peak has been charged with grand theft of more than $100,000, dealing in stolen property, sale of stolen property through the internet, and fraud.