Librarians: Book Bandit Robbing Libraries

This story was reported by Brian Maass, investigative reporter at CBS4 in Denver.

Librarians throughout Colorado suspect a prolific book bandit checked out and attempted to sell thousands of books, tapes and DVDs. Library losses are estimated in the tens of thousands of dollars.

"He stole from his neighbors. He stole from this community," said M. Celeste Jackson of the Denver Public Library.

Thomas Pilaar, 33, obtained seven library cards from the Denver Public Library by using different names, CBS4 investigator Brian Maass learned.

The library says Pilaar then checked out as many as 300 items on each card, selling many of them via the Web site

A woman who recently bought books from Pilaar through Craigslist noticed the library identification stamps and alerted authorities.

"It appears his intent was to sell 2,100 (items) from the Denver Library collection," said Jackson, who estimated the losses at about $35,000.

Denver is hardly alone. Librarians from Aurora, Arapahoe County and Douglas County say they too have been victimized in recent months by Pilaar. Arapahoe County library administrators said Pilaar obtained three different library cards and checked out between 250 and 300 items.

James Larue, Douglas County's head librarian, said Pilaar checked out more than 300 items from two Douglas County libraries, mostly DVDs and pricey coffee table books. He says the library system's losses stand at $11,000.

"At one point $11,000 worth of material was about to go overdue, did go overdue, and it turned out that all of us very quickly shared that information and decided, 'Oh, it looks like we have a problem with this patron, let's be careful about that,'" Larue said. "Just like any other system, it's possible to abuse it. And this guy, if he is who he claims to be, shows up at some of the libraries and developed very quickly a pattern of just not acting like an ordinary patron and checking out way too many DVDs."

The Denver District Attorney's Office is investigating the library thefts and is considering filing criminal charges against Pilaar. Prosecutors are asking anyone else who may have inadvertently bought library books via the Internet, or anyone who knows where these books might be, to contact the Denver D.A.'s office.

Authorites arrested Thomas Pilaar within the last week on an unrelated parole violation. He is being held without bond at the Denver County Jail. He declined a CBS4 request to discuss the library thefts.

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