Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Major Theft Case Brewing in Montana

Late last week, Rob Lopresti, Government Information Librarian at Western Washington University (Bellingham, WA) reported that as part of an investigation into thefts of government-issued maps from WWU first discovered in February 2006, Great Falls, MT police and Department of Homeland Security personnel "executed a search warrant on the property of James Brubaker, who sold maps, Indian artifacts, and other material on eBay under the handle Montanasilver." The search occurred, Lopresti said, on 12 December 2007. He reports "I have heard the authorities confiscated thousands of plates and maps, hundreds of books, and many Indian artifacts."

In a followup email, Lopresti passed along the following statement from Great Falls Detective Bruce McDermott: "Old books (late 1700's- early 1900's) have turned up in our search (over 1000 books) attributed to College and Public Libraries.....most have the library identifiers and the libraries will be contacted in the days to come. I would like the (other) libraries to know of these book thefts as well because we are hoping that (like WWU did in the feb. 06 case) they filed police reports or might have seen an elderly suspect. We wouild love to know if there are police reports associated with book/map thefts." Detective McDermott can be contacted by email.

I've been in touch with Detective McDermott, who informs me that charges have not yet been filed against Mr. Brubaker as the case is still being developed against him; he said a federal indictment will be sought soon, hopefully by March. He adds that the "overall case is even larger than the theft from libraries in that Brubaker is involved in the smuggling and illicit selling of Indian artifacts; specifically from a very famous Montana battle site and museum."

As soon as I get more, I'll get it out to you all. Detective McDermott said he shares the view that it's important to get the word out about these thefts, so if your library may have been impacted, do be in touch with him ASAP.

[Update: Finally, some new news! (3/27)]


MThistory said...

I've been following Brubaker's ebay items for years, and am very pleased he's been nabbed. All his books he listed were "from a private library" and had all marks removed. And he always had amazing maps and prints and fantastic indian artifacts. Now we know why. Kudos to Mr. Lopresti for his efforts! .... Andrew in Great Falls

mscriver said...

Brubaker has been notorious for funny business with objects loosely connected to NA or American West materials long before eBay. He is connected to a whole "nest" of such people in his area who swapped tricks. eBay is just one of the best because it is so slippery and because one needn't drive around. He's never been caught because no one thought the materials were that deserving of respect or protection -- much less worth money.

Thank goodness for Warrior Librarians!

Prairie Mary