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Authorities Say Inmate-Turned-Author Has Returned to Original Line of Work

September 21, 1991

PHOENIX (AP) _ A so-called ″superthief″ who said he went straight in prison and wrote a book on how to foil burglars is back behind bars, accused of returning to his old specialty: ripping off the homes of rich people.

Inmate-turned-author John Arthur ″Jack″ MacLean is being held on charges stemming from an investigation of about 150 burglaries in well-to-do Phoenix suburbs. Police say the thefts netted about $3 million during the past two years.

MacLean, 44, was known as a professional whose specialty was getting past sophisticated burglar alarms. Authorities blame him for as many as 2,000 break-ins in fancy East Coast neighborhoods in the 1970s, though he did time in Florida for just a handful of burglaries.

In prison, MacLean shared his experience, including a nine-point checklist he used to target homes, in a 1983 book called ″Secrets of a Superthief.″

The humorous, no-nonsense guide to home protection tells what locks to buy, what dogs to post on guard and what kind of gravel to put in the driveway. It also provides such cheap anti-burglary tips as the suggestion that people post signs on their doors stating, ″Attack dogs trained and sold here.″

In the book, MacLean repeatedly asserted his thieving days were over.

He was arrested Sept. 7 at his trailer home in the suburb of Tempe. He is being held on $8,400 bail in the Maricopa County Jail, facing both federal and state charges.

His attorney, Jose DeLaVara, didn’t return phone calls seeking comment Thursday or Friday. MacLean declined an interview request by The Associated Press.

County authorities charged MacLean with burglary, criminal trespass and possession of burglary tools. The U.S. Attorney charged him with interstate transportation of stolen property for allegedly sending a stolen $5,000 ring to a coin shop in Waterville, Maine.

Trial on the Arizona burglary charges was set for Dec. 2.

The charges cover just one burglary, but Scottsdale police Sgt. Tony Markos said MacLean is being investigated in connection with other ″greenbelt″ burglaries - break-ins at homes along golf courses and grassy washes in Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and northeast Phoenix.

MacLean served seven years of a 15-year sentence in Florida before he was freed on probation in 1987. Florida probation records show he moved to Arizona in April.

In the introduction to MacLean’s book, Washington Post reporter Tom Zito noted that the ″Superthief″ had a sense of humor about his work. He would glue dentures to doorknobs, short-sheet beds and leave a phone book in a burglarized home open to the police department’s number.

Florida authorities say the light-hearted character projected in the book was the same man convicted of burglaries and prosecuted unsuccessfully for rape.

Assistant State Attorney Susan Dannelly tried to prosecute MacLean for an alleged rape but the case failed when Florida’s statute of limitations expired.

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