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Store Owned By Kentucky Governor Alleged to Have Bought Stolen Books

July 20, 1988

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ A branch of a bookstore chain owned by Kentucky Gov. Wallace Wilkinson sold books stolen from a competitor, according to a police complaint, but company executives said nobody at the branch knew the books were stolen.

The University Co-Op bookstore at the University of Texas has lost an estimated $600,000 in stolen texts in the last year and says some of those books ended up two doors away at a branch of Wallace’s Bookstores Inc.

Co-Op President George Mitchell said Tuesday he believes a theft ring specializing in textbooks and advanced professional journals, a few dishonest employees and lax security combined to make the bookstore easy pickings.

University Co-op said in its complaint that the Wallace’s branch paid $2,000 for technical books on advanced engineering, chemistry and other subjects and re-sold them for $4,000 to independent book broker Wes Berkovsky.

Mitchell said he was angry that Wallace’s bought and sold the books without notifying him. Another Austin bookstore, Half-Price Books, bought $1,400 worth of books but called as soon as it realized they were stolen, Mitchell said.

It was the second time Wallace’s Bookstores has been involved in a stolen books case this year. In a Georgia case, executives of Lexington-based Wallace’s also denied knowing that a supplier had been shipping stolen books to the central warehouse in Lexington, Ky..

Wilkinson founded the company and is chairman, but he has not been involved in its daily operation for several years, according to bookstore employees.

The stolen books’ retail value was estimated as low as $20,000 by Wallace’s officials in Lexington and as high as $44,000 by Berkovsky, according to a report Tuesday in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

John Schudy, manager of Wallace’s Austin store, said he did not remember buying technical books or selling them to Berkovsky.

Mitchell said no one from Wallace’s told him stolen Co-op books were being offered to other book dealers, nor did anyone suggest that Wallace’s had been offered books that might have been stolen from the Co-op, he said.

Schudy said he went to the Co-op only to discuss ways the Co-op could reduce shoplifting, not to show Co-op employees suspicious books.

Half-Price manager John Wiley said he became suspicious after two men appeared several times wanting to sell books, ″about half of which had titles I couldn’t even pronounce.″

″After a while, you get suspicious,″ Wiley said. ″When a guy who looks like he doesn’t study very much walks in with a $100 book that he is more than willing to sell for $2 or $3, something isn’t right. It’s unfortunate, but it’s something that happens. Students are particularly vulnerable.″

Although Wilkinson has disavowed involvement in the company’s daily operations, the Herald-Leader reported that state telephone records show dozens of calls between the governor’s office and Wallace’s headquarters.

Doug Alexander, Wilkinson’s press secretary, said most of the calls to the book company were probably his, seeking information on the governor’s business background for reporters.

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