URBANA — A former employee of the University of Illinois has been charged with theft for allegedly stealing rare musical books from a campus library and selling them.
The allegations against Thomas McGeary, 71, who listed an address in the 500 block of South Fifth Street, apparently came to light when the vendor to whom McGeary had allegedly sold a UI book offered it back to the university for sale, not realizing its origin.
Assistant State’s Attorney Brooke Hinman said McGeary’s position allowed him access to materials in the music library.
The single charge against him alleges that on May 5, 2017, he “obtained control over” musical books, including “Le Quattro Stagioni” by Haydn, and “25 Oratorio Libretti” worth more than $500, knowing they were stolen.
UI Police Sgt. Gene Moore said the vendor apparently offered to sell one of the books he had bought from McGeary to staff at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, within the Main Library, in early June.
The staff recognized markings on it as similar to a collection owned by the UI.
When staff checked, they found it was among several books listed as missing from inventory since late 2016. The 25 missing books together were valued at $11,500.
The vendor identified McGeary as the person who sold him the book.
Moore said his department was notified of the theft about mid-June and has been working on the case since then. He said a detective spoke with McGeary on Oct. 9, after which he was given a notice to appear in court Tuesday.
Judge Adam Dill arraigned him on the Class 3 felony theft charge, which carries penalties ranging from probation to two to five years in prison, and allowed him to remain free on his own recognizance until his next court hearing Jan. 28.