Library-to-eBay Thief Caught
The number of libraries seems astonishing, but probably necessary to maintain Brubaker's large eBay business. The Great Falls Police determined that on December 12, 2007, montanasilver had 550 items listed for sale, including 300 original maps and lithographs. He had listed over 1,100 items in the previous 30 days. In addition to the books, thousands, possibly tens of thousands of separate maps and plates were found in Brubaker's possession, along with tools such as razors, magnets used to de-magnetize books to evade security detectors, chemicals to remove identifying codes on books, and the like. From Western Washington University's library alone, some 648 pages of maps and prints removed from 108 government reports were discovered in Brubaker's possession.
According to the government, when the search warrant was presented to Brubaker, he stated, "Whatever you think you will find ... and, I'm not saying I did anything wrong ... but, whatever you find in this search, my wife ... only helped me ship some items and with the listings and had nothing to do with obtaining the items..." He also admitted going to Western Washington University, which was backed up not only by his parking ticket, but parking permits he purchased, restaurant and hotel receipts.
Asked for an estimate of damages to the books he defaced, the Western Washington librarians gave a conservative estimate of $21,600. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The stolen books have been valued at $220,000, but that does not include volumes damaged by Brubaker's razor, which could raise the total to $500,000.
This all brings us back to the vexing issue of library security. Much has been done along these lines in recent years, but this has mainly been focused on rare book rooms and the books and maps worth tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. Providing this type of security to standard libraries, with books that are collectible but not of extraordinary value, can be very costly, not to mention the inconvenience. Librarians, not usually trained in criminal investigative techniques, may have a hard time matching a skilled pilferer like Brubaker. Indeed, he got away with his thefts and amputations at over 100 libraries before finally being caught. Perhaps if he were not quite so greedy, nor quite so overconfident, he might still be free. Brubaker felt secure enough to leave a record of his being at the library, and put their material up for sale on the most obvious of venues - eBay. He might well have gotten away with the Western Washington theft if his overconfidence did not display itself in sheer laziness. After drawing some attention through numerous furtive glances when the librarian approached, Brubaker made the fatal error of tossing the books he sliced haphazardly back on the wrong shelves. This enabled librarian Fitzgerald to observe which books he had handled, and discover that pages had been excised from them. That set the librarians' detective work in action, and ended an enormous series of thefts that, for the most part, had gone unnoticed. Were it not for their detective work, most of the thefts might never have been noticed. That's a sobering thought.