February 20, 1997
University Gazette


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  Cambridge Man Arraigned on Charges of Stealing Rare Library Books

By Shawn Zeller

Special to the Gazette

José Torres-Carbonnel, a Cambridge resident who is accused of stealing $750,000 worth of rare books, prints, maps, and plates from Harvard University Libraries, was arraigned on Feb. 18 at Middlesex Superior Court on 16 charges, including larceny, receiving stolen property, and malicious destruction of library materials.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison upon conviction. Torres-Carbonnel, 35, pled not guilty on all counts. After his plea, Clerk Magistrate Lucille Pasquale raised his cash bail to $5,000 from $1,000 and ordered Torres-Carbonnel held at the Middlesex County Jail until bail was met. Torres-Carbonnel was also ordered to stay away from Harvard should he make bail.

The thefts allegedly occurred during 1994, 1995, and 1996 while Torres-Carbonnel was living in Cambridge with his wife, a Harvard graduate student in fine arts. Police said Torres-Carbonnel had access to the University Library system because of his wife's affiliation with the University. Torres-Carbonnel's wife is not implicated by the investigation.

A major breakthrough in the investigation came last June when library officials spoke to a book dealer in Granada, Spain, who had at least two rare books that had been stolen from a Harvard library. Harvard University Police Detective Richard Mederos, who was heading the investigation, then traced the books from the Granada book dealer back to an antiques dealer who said that the books were purchased from a Cambridge resident.

The arrest was made June 25, 1996, after Mederos received information that Torres-Carbonnel, who is a citizen of Spain, was planning to leave the country. After he was questioned, Torres-Carbonnel confessed to several of the thefts, Mederos said. Torres-Carbonnel was indicted on Jan. 30 and pretrial hearings will begin on March 12.

"I'm proud of the work we did on this case," said Mederos, now the HUPD's detective sergeant. "I feel very confident that if we went to trial now we could secure a conviction."


Copyright 1998 President and Fellows of Harvard College