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Published: Friday, 9/12/2008

Officials recover one of two books stolen from Hayes center

BLADE STAFF

COLUMBUS - One of two rare books stolen earlier this summer from Fremont’s Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center library was found Thursday, a Toledo FBI spokesman said Friday afternoon.

Toledo FBI Supervisor Dave Dustin said agents recovered a book commonly called The Maxwell Code in Columbus after arresting three Columbus-area residents Wednesday. They were charged with federal theft of artwork for the Aug. 25 theft of that book from the presidential center library in Fremont as well as the theft of another book stolen earlier in the summer.

FBI Special Agent Charles Holloway said in an affidavit that The Maxwell Code is valued at more than $100,000.

A Presidential center spokesman said the book, printed in 1795, was the first book ever published in Ohio. It is the first printed record of the state’s original laws and there are less than 10 copies known to exist.

The FBI said the other stolen book, commonly referred to as The Freeman Code, was stolen in June by two of the three suspects, but that book wasn’t discovered missing until this month.

Mr. Dustin said that book is still missing.

The Freeman Code, printed in 1798, is a virtual reprint of The Maxwell Code, and is valued at approximately $35,000, according to the FBI.

Agent Holloway said in his affidavit that one suspected thief sold the book to someone in England through a Chicago-based dealer.

Two of the three suspected thieves are scheduled to appear Tuesday in the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio and the third will appear there Thursday.

(From earlier editions of toledoblade.com)

By CHAUNCEY ALCORN

BLADE STAFF WRITER

FREMONT - The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center library contains some of the country's rarest books and, for years, has allowed people from all over the world to view them on site.

But two of the library's rarest books, with a total value of about $130,000, are missing.

While authorities have arrested three people believed connected to the disappearances, it's not known where the books are.

One of the books is said to be the first printed in Ohio. Fewer than 10 copies are known to exist.

Nancy Kleinhenz, the presi-dential center's communications manager, said the library may change its policy regarding the viewing of rare books as a result of the thefts.

"These materials are made available in our library for everyone to use," she said.

"For someone to be so selfish to take material for personal gain and remove them from public access as a whole - that is ultimately upsetting to us," Ms. Kleinhenz said.

Angela Bays, whose age was not available, and Joshua McCarty, 31, were arrested Wednesday by FBI agents at their home in Columbus and charged with theft of major artwork.

Zachary A. Scranton, 21, of Marysville, Ohio, was arrested Wednesday at work and charged with the same crime.

The three were released on bonds after initial appearances in federal court.

FBI Special Agent Charles Holloway said in an affidavit that Mr. McCarty and Ms. Bays visited the presidential center library June 27 and asked to see a book commonly referred to as The Maxwell Code.

It was printed in 1795 and contains the first printing of Ohio laws.

The pair also viewed a book commonly called The Freeman Code, according to the affidavit. It was printed in 1798. Both books contained laws of the Northwest Territory.

A short time later, a library employee confronted Mr. McCarty when he saw him leaving a women's bathroom.

Agent Holloway said Mr. McCarty had The Maxwell Code in his possession at the time.

"The employee retrieved the book from him," Agent Holloway said in the affidavit.

"The couple left the library and the [employee] returned what [he] thought to be both books to the shelf."

The books were stored together in a box, but what the employee didn't know was The Freeman Code, a 32-page pamphlet rebound with extra blank pages sometime after it was published, had been torn out of its binding.

"They ripped out the 32-page pamphlet," Mrs. Kleinhenz said.

She said employees saw the second book cover, but didn't open the book to discover the pamphlet was missing.

According to the affidavit:

The employees didn't realize the book had been stolen until a few months later until after Mr. Scranton, a friend Mr. McCarty paid $300 to steal The Maxwell Code, visited the library Aug. 25.

Mr. Scranton asked to view The Maxwell Code.

It was given to him by a library employee, who asked for Mr. Scranton's identification card, which would be returned to him when he returned the book.

Mr. Scranton said he didn't have any identification, but offered his bookbag, which he previously stuffed with paper towels, as collateral.

He later left the building, saying he had to make a phone call. When he didn't come back, the employees realized he'd stolen the book, the affidavit said. They called Fremont police.

An original copy of The Maxwell Code was sold in 2007 by a well-respected auction house for more than $100,000, Agent Holloway said his affidavit.

Only three copies of the book have been sold in the last 40 years.

Mrs. Kleinhenz said the auction house had a lot of information about The Maxwell Code on its Web site, including the fact there were very few original copies left. "We found out unfortunately too late in the game that they had us listed as possessing one of those copies."

When the library later sent

e-mails about The Maxwell Code theft to various book dealers and auction houses, employees received responses from several book dealers who said they'd been contacted by Mr. McCarty and that he'd recently sold a copy of The Freeman Code through a legitimate Philadelphia-based dealer who was unaware it was stolen, according to the affidavit.

That dealer later told authorities he sold the book for $35,000 to a person in England.

The dealer took a 10 percent commission and gave the remaining $31,500 to Mr. McCarty's mother, who accepted it on her son's behalf, the affidavit states.

That's when the library became aware of the theft of The Freeman Code.

Fremont police and FBI investigators traced cell phone calls made to the dealer from Mr. McCarty, the affidavit states.

The affidavit further states that Mr. McCarty was arrested in 2007 in connection with the theft of antique maps, valued at $20,000, from a bookstore in Harrisburg, Ill.

He also has a prior arrest record for felony theft and receiving stolen property.

Cell phone records indicated Mr. McCarty called Mr. Scranton on Aug. 25 - the day of the theft from the Hayes library.

Also, library employees identified Mr. Scranton when shown a picture of him, the affidavit states.

After his arrest, Mr. Scranton implicated Mr. McCarty in the theft, authorities said.

"Our head librarian has been at the center 25 years and, in that time, we have never had a theft of this type of material," Mrs. Kleinhenz said.

She said the library previously required only the exchange of an identification card to view rare books within the building, but that likely will change after an administrative review.

"We are already instituting stricter rules for access to the rare materials," she said.

Contact Chauncey Alcorn at:

calcorn@theblade.com

or 419-724-6168.



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