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Manhattan Bookstore Owner Helps Nab Alleged Serial Library Book Thief

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- It was an unwelcome plot twist for an accused book thief caught scamming his way through Manhattan book shops.

The suspect was indicted Friday.

CBS 2's Kathryn Brown was in the East Village to tell this real page-turner of a story.

To Donald Davis, books are the windows to the world.

So, when he heard someone was using them in a scheme to make money he was furious.

"It just made me and makes a lot of people angry that somebody would actually steal from the library," Davis said.

1010 WINS' Stan Brooks with bookstore owner Donald Davis


Investigators warned Davis -- and other bookstore owners in the area -- that the suspect, Andrew Hansen, was stealing valuable books from the New York Public Library, stripping the stickers and bar codes and then selling them to used book shops, netting thousands of dollars in the process.

"I think there's a certain amount of book loss that happens at libraries or any public institutions," New York Public Library spokesperson Gayle Snible told 1010 WINS. "It's somebody that we've been looking at for a little while and this is an extreme case."

Davis, the owner of East Village Books, was so determined to catch the thief that he set up a small-scale sting.

"The code word was 'where's my delivery'?" Davis said.

So when Hansen showed up and tried to peddle $300 worth of books, Davis, a former high school wrestler, was able to read between the lines.

"I told him you're not going anywhere. We're waiting for the police and he tried to get around me and I pushed him into a chair," Davis said.

Surveillance cameras were rolling.

"I'm an ex-Marine, but I went all the way back to high school to get the moves to restrain this guy without hurting him," Davis said.

The suspect is well known in literary circles and library police said they've been onto him for years, but haven't been able to catch him until now. His reputation had gotten him banned from The Strand in Union Square, WCBS 880's Irene Cornell reports.

WCBS 880's Irene Cornell reports: Felony Charge Could Carry Up To 7 Years In Prison


Davis said he's not keen on being a one-man crime-stopping squad and usually roots for the underdog.

"The guy's on the ground and saying I didn't steal from you and I'm thinking, yeah, that's right you didn't steal from me, but the people that you stole from are the people who really need the library," Davis said.

For now, Hansen is behind bars and as for Davis it has been something of a storybook ending.

Sources said Hansen has been arrested at least twice in the past for trying to steal books and his library privileges were revoked in 2009. He's now being held on $7,500 bail. He's due back in court on Oct. 19.

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