Men accused in $8M Carnegie Library book heist headed to trial
A librarian and a purveyor of rare books will both stand trial in connection to decades of theft and trafficking of some of the Carnegie Library’s rarest and oldest works.
Gregory Priore, 61, allegedly told detectives who searched his home earlier last year that he’d made $40,000-$50,000 in the years-long scheme. He’s accused of stealing prints, maps and rare books from the library’s Oliver Room — where rare and antique collections were stored — and handing them off to Caliban Book Shop owner John Schulman as part of the conspiracy.
That loss amount for the library was actually much higher, a detective testified Friday at a preliminary hearing for the two men. The pair are accused of conspiring to steal and sell several hundred rare books and other items worth more than $8 million.
Fran Laquatra, a detective from the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office, said in court that checks written to Priore from the Caliban Book Shop between 2011 and 2014 totaled $117,000. She said cash deposits linked to Priore’s handoff of books to Schulman came to about $20,000 between 2010 and 2017.
Prosecutors allege that, beginning in the 1990s, Priore began taking books, prints and maps worth thousands from the room and dropped them off with Schulman on his way home from the library in Oakland. Schulman then sold them online.
Laquatra said Priore told her during an interview that he used the money from Schulman to “stay afloat.”
The alleged thefts, police say, came to light during an appraisal of the Oliver Room in 2017 for insurance purposes. The last appraisal took place in 1991, and appraisers discovered 321 pieces from that appraisal missing from the room.
Laquatra testified that some were found in Schulman’s Wilkinsburg warehouse. Others were traced through online sales back to the Caliban Book Shop.
Priore helped create the Oliver room in 1990 and 1991, and he took over its care and operations the following year. Jennifer Styran, the library services administrator in the main Oakland branch, testified that Priore had oversight of the room, as well as a key. She said she did not know how many keys to the Oliver Room existed.
She said Priore’s record-keeping was “sporadic,” and there were very few documented visitor logs for the room. His appointment calendars remain in the room, she said, but they contain little visitor information.
Defense attorney Albert Veverka, representing Schulman, and Patrick Livingston, representing Priore, tried to determine through questioning Styran who else might have had access to the Oliver Room and whether Priore was ever authorized to sell items from the room.
Priore is charged with theft by unlawful taking, retail theft, forgery, receiving stolen property, criminal mischief and four counts of conspiracy, all of which are felonies. He also faces one misdemeanor charge of library theft.
Schulman faces 20 charges, including nine counts of theft, three counts of deceptive business practices and four counts of conspiracy.
Formal arraignment for both is scheduled for Nov. 29. Both men are free on bond.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, email@example.com or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.