Today’s story comes to us from the Cape. Barnstable, to be exact.

It is a story of theft. Grand larceny theft. Felony theft.

Arthur Souza, 52, (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) is a Barnstable gentleman who has been indicted for stealing valuable books from several Cape Cod libraries. He faces various counts of larceny.

Before you accuse the Commonwealth of being anti-education, these books were allegedly not for reading.

The Commonwealth alleges that the Defendant stole the books and sold them to a Chatham antiques dealer. The dealer, in turn, sold them on the auction website eBay. Some of the books are apparently valued at hundreds of dollars, thereby breaking the $250 barrier between petite larceny (misdemeanor) and grand larceny (felony).

According to law enforcement, the Defendant stole the books from the Harwich, Brewster, Barnstable, Yarmouth and Chatham libraries.

The allegations came to light when one librarian tipped off other libraries after she got a call from a man who spotted a book bearing the library’s markings on eBay.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Massachusetts Crimes Of Theft

Stealing something is illegal. It is theft. It is larceny.

“What if it is just a piece of junk?”

It is still a theft. The fact that it may be almost valueless simply means that the charge is likely to be a misdemeanor.

Some theft crimes have their own particular potential sentences, such as the shoplifting of a very inexpensive item. Others can be prosecuted differently depending on where items are stolen from, whether force is used and what the item is.

When it comes to libraries, the Commonwealth does not fool around.

Chapter 266, Section 99A of the Massachusetts General Laws states, in part, as follows”

Section 99A. Whoever willfully conceals on his person or among his belongings any library materials or property and removes said library materials or property, if the value of the property stolen exceeds two hundred and fifty dollars, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than five years, or by a fine of not less than one thousand nor more than twenty-five thousand dollars, or both; or, if the value of the property stolen does not exceed two hundred and fifty dollars, shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not less than one hundred nor more than one thousand dollars, or both, and ordered to pay the replacement value of such library materials or property, including all reasonable processing costs, as determined by the governing board of said library.

Generally, as in the case here, the dividing line of prosecution is $250.

“What if I am walking out of a store or a library with items and I do not realize it?”

Well, intent (or willingness) is a critical element of the crime. However, convincing the store or a prosecutor that it was an accident might be a bit of a problem.

One thing that can either hinder or help such a defense is whether or not there was a video-camera at the location of alleged theft. If your movements were captured on video, then it might be easier to confirm or contradict the claim of accident.

There are other defenses available in these cases, depending on the specifics of the case.

“What about in the case you wrote about? Clearly, an insatiable urge to read cannot be the defense.”

Probably not. However, it is not clear here how the Defendant was found to be the alleged culprit.

“Well, I would imagine that law enforcement began with whoever put the books upon eBay and went backwards until they got to him.”

Could be. But then, it may be a much weaker case than it originally sounded. After all, as we have discussed many times in these blogs, people will say all kinds of things to get out of trouble. Particularly felony-type trouble. Therefore, the Commonwealth’s witnesses may have some problems with their credibility.

Just one more reason why, when facing such a crime, it is best to retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Today, no crime is as simple and straightforward as it might seem at first.

To read the article upon which this blog was based, please go to

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