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Stolen books returned to Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. Two men convicted in federal court for theft

Stolen books returned to library

BY MATT MANNING • Staff writer • April 2, 2009

Two men convicted in federal court for theft of an artwork

FREMONT — Two rare books that were stolen from the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center last summer were finally returned Wednesday afternoon.

The books were returned by FBI agent Charles Holloway to the Hayes Center after investigators finished up their cases against the two people responsible for the thefts.

Holloway unwrapped the books, which were wrapped in paper, and presented both to Hayes Presidential Center Director Thomas Culbertson in the center’s library area.

Holloway and center employees examined the books for the first time since they were stolen last summer.

One of the books, “Laws of the Territory of the United States North West of the Ohio,” also known as the Maxwell Code, is the first book printed in what would become the state of Ohio. Printed in 1796, it is valued at more than $100,000. It was stolen Aug. 25.

The other book stolen, “Laws of the Territory of the United States North West of the River Ohio,” is also known as The Freeman Code. That book was printed in 1798 and is valued over $30,000. It was stolen on June 27.

“President Hayes was an avid book collector with anything to do with Ohio history or U.S. history,” Culbertson said.

Fremont police Det. Sean O’Connell and Ofc. Clayton Holskey put in more than 125 hours on the investigation, accumulating $5,000 in overtime and expenses.

“It’s definitely the most challenging investigation in my career,” O’Connell said. “We had almost nothing but vague descriptions (of the books and suspects).”

O’Connell said they were able to further their investigation by gaining information about the books on the Internet and through cell phone records.

“We suspected they were using cell phones,” O’Connell said, adding they were able to track down specifically when and where they were used.

“We could then link the suspects to the Fremont area,” O’Connell said.

Hayes Center personnel quickly notified book collectors and dealers, telling them to be on the lookout for the books.

Three months into the investigation, police were able to make arrests. Both works were recovered after the lengthy investigation, “The Maxwell Code” from Columbus and “The Freeman Code” from Dallas.

Joshua McCarty, 31, of Columbus, had been sentenced in federal court for theft of an artwork to 3 years and 10 months in prison and will serve three years probation, said U.S. Assistant Prosecutor Tom Secor.

However, Zachary Scranton, 21, of Marysville, faces a sentencing on the same charge May 11, Secor added. The other woman allegedly involved, Angela Bays, 19, also of Columbus, was not charged, he added.

In response to the thefts, the Hayes Library has implemented stricter security measures for its book collection.

All library visitors must present a photo ID and complete a full visitor registry will their full name, address and phone number. Visitors have to put coats, briefcases, backpacks and other items on the coat rack or in lockers before going to the library reading room.

Culbertson said people can only view material on a desk, which is in plain sight of whoever is working in the library.

“We watch people more closely than we used to,” Culbertson said.

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