What do rare books and Galapagos Tortoises have in common? Not much, but according to a story reported by the St. Petersburg (Florida) Police Department, they do share a home with collector/dealer/arrestee Joshua McCarty-Thomas (46) and his wife, Dashae (29). They were in the business of selling books, though their interest in the turtles is not so clear. According to the police, they were not the owners of the books or tortoises, nor an agent for the owners.
According to police reports, this odd combination of stolen items reflects Joshua McCarty-Thomas' limited selectivity in what he stole. Reportedly, he is a suspect in a couple of comic book thefts in Florida. In one, according to the Tampa Bay Times, the comics were valued at “thousands of dollars.” One was sold on eBay from an account belonging to the McCarty-Thomases. And then there were dozens of comics stolen from the Hall of Heroes Museum in Indiana. The owner described those as Marvel classics published from 1930-1950, worth “tens of thousands of dollars if not more,” according to WFLA.com. The sale of one of those was traced and found to have been shipped from the McCarty-Thomas residence.
That wasn't all. Earlier this year, Joshua McCarty-Thomas and another man were arrested for burglary of a home. In that theft, items taken included jewelry, designer purses, acoustic guitars, and a rifle. They have also been valued at tens of thousands of dollars. He pleaded not guilty.
Then there are the rare books. A news release from the St. Petersburg Police Department says books were stolen from Haslam's Book Store and Lighthouse Books in St. Petersburg. Each was described as “rare books worth thousands of dollars.” According to the Tampa Bay Times, this included a rare folio collection of the Boston American newspaper.
The Tampa Bay Times also did some additional searching into Joshua McCarty-Thomas' past and found he had stolen books before, including a copy of the rare and very valuable Maxwell Code from the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums in Ohio. Other books were stolen from a dealer. He was sentenced to 46 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and that he comply with mental health treatment so that he could become a “positive contributor” to society. Obviously, that last part did not work.
Finally, there were the tortoises. They were stolen from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in St. Augustine last November. There were two of them. They were young ones or else the theft would have been prohibitively difficult. The police report pointed out, “Once grown, these giant reptiles can reach 600 lbs. and live 150 years.” Elephant/tortoise folios, rare and antiquarian. One was found in a freezer, and unfortunately, Galapagos Tortoises don't live in the Arctic. It was not alive. The other one did survive and was running around (metaphorically running, not literally) in the yard. It's owner was identified because it had a chip implanted. What they planned to do with turtles is unclear. I don't know how one goes about fencing a Galapagos Tortoise. Apparently, the McCarty-Thomases didn't either.
Joshua McCarty-Thomas is facing eight charges, four of dealing in stolen property, two of burglary, and two from Marion County, site of one of the comic book thefts. Dashae McCarty-Thomas was charged with three counts of dealing in stolen property. Both were placed in jail pending their raising bail. Ironically, Dashae McCarty-Thomas was employed as a Correctional Officer at the Department of Corrections. She has reportedly been dismissed from that position, but she may yet again see the inside of a prison, though the outcome of the charges will determine from which side of the bars.