Map Thief Sentenced in Federal Court E. Forbes Smiley is one of the nation's foremost experts on antique maps. He was given access to some of the rarest collections at Harvard, Yale, and Chicago's Newberry Library. But the scholar was also a thief. He was sentenced Wednesday for crimes that came to light when Smiley was stopped after leaving a Yale library with nearly $900,000 worth of rare maps.
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Map Thief Sentenced in Federal Court

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Map Thief Sentenced in Federal Court

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Map Thief Sentenced in Federal Court

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Diane Orson reports from member station WNPR.

DIANE ORSON: Rare book dealer Bill Reese has known Smiley since the early 1980s.

BILL REESE: Forbes Smiley is a person who is tremendously knowledgeable about the areas of cartography that he has worked in, in particular. And in a way, this is what made him so dangerous.

ORSON: But Smiley slipped up. A Yale librarian spotted a razor blade on the floor and called security. Smiley was arrested later that day with antique maps worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in his brief case and in the pockets of his tweed blazer.

CLIVE FIELD: The victims in this crime are clearly the libraries.

ORSON: Dr. Clive Field is the director of the British Library in London, where Smiley stole one of the earliest maps of America.

FIELD: Beyond that, however, I would say that the real victims of this are actually the peoples of the world. These are not just American maps, they're not just British maps, they are literally part of the testament of world civilization.

ORSON: Smiley admitted stealing 98 maps in all from libraries in Boston, New York, Chicago and London, valued at more than $3 million. He said he stole them to finance his expensive tastes. But once he was caught, he told the FBI where to find the missing maps. In many cases, the libraries didn't even know they were gone. Field says the case will likely change the way libraries operate.

FIELDS: People who are really interested in these maps may in the future not have the level of access that they should, simply because people like Mr. Smiley have effectively betrayed the trust on which libraries and their patrons have to operate.

ORSON: For NPR News, I'm Diane Orson in New Haven.

INSKEEP: You're listening to NPR News.

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