Texas Rare-Book Thief Gets Probation

Article excerpt

A U.S. district court judge sentenced a Chicago woman to three years of probation January 30 and ordered her to pay restitution fees of $381,595 for the theft of nearly 400 rare books in the early 1990s from the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. As part of her plea agreement, Mimi Meyer, 57, agreed to provide information about the sale of the books as well as return materials still in her possession.

Attorney Michael Siegel told U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks during the trial that his client had made some "stupid decisions" as retaliation for a friend being fired, the February 1 Austin American-Statesman reported. "She hadn't intended to sell them at first," Siegel said. "She was just getting back at the Ransom Center for what happened to her companion, but then she fell into a little financial trouble and had to start selling some of the books."

Meyer came under suspicion and was dismissed in September 1992 when a Ransom library staffer found a rare book from the stacks in the office where she had worked as a volunteer conservator since 1989. However, no specific thefts were discovered until 2001 when a collection of poetry by Francesco Petrarch, published in Venice in 1514 by Aldus Manutius and marked as missing in UT's catalog, was put up for auction by Swann Galleries of New York.

Gallery officials told Austin-based FBI agents that Meyer was the seller and said she had brought 46 other books to them for consignment over the years. The FBI suspects Meyer sold stolen books to Heritage Auction, Pacific Book Auctions (now PBA Galleries), and Sotheby's in New York for nearly $400,000. …