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URBANA — A former University of Illinois employee who admitted stealing rare musical books from the UI was sentenced Tuesday to two years of second-chance probation.

The sentence for Thomas McGeary, 71, who listed an address in the 500 block of South Fifth Street, Champaign, means he can escape a conviction on his record should he successfully complete his probation with no further difficulties.

McGeary pleaded guilty before Judge Heidi Ladd to the crime with which he was charged last fall — the theft of two rare books worth more than $500 from the UI Music Library.

“He said he stole the books for money and revenge because books should be used and not stored away. He wanted revenge because the UI (wronged) him,” Assistant State’s Attorney Alex Boyd said, in laying out the facts.

UI Police Sgt. Gene Moore said the theft of the books: “Le Quattro Stagioni” by Haydn, and “25 Oratorio Libretti” came to light in June 2019.

A vendor approached a staff member at the Main Library to sell “Le Quattro Stagioni” to the university. However, UI officials noticed it had the same markings as a copy of the book that had gone missing around December 2016.

The vendor revealed that he had purchased that book and another in May 2017 from McGeary, who was both a graduate student and a music library employee at one time.

Library officials discovered more than 25 of the most expensive books in a collection donated to the UI in the 1920s were missing. The missing books were valued in excess of $11,000.

Moore said some of those were recovered.

As part of his probation, McGeary will also have to complete 30 hours of public service. He had no criminal history, Boyd said.



Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).

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