The Collegian
Saturday, April 13, 2024

Drug-addicted bookstore thieves convicted

Three people arrested last school year on charges of stealing $6,225.70 in textbooks from the campus bookstore to support drug addictions have been found guilty in the Richmond Circuit Court. The fourth person has yet to go to trial.

Convicted of felony shoplifting and conspiracy to commit a felony were Caitlin E. Spencer, 23, and Christopher D. Loren, 27, of Chesterfield County; and Christian R. Brackett, 27, of Chesterfield. Arden Wesley Searles, 27, of Richmond, is awaiting trial.

Brackett was found guilty, and his defense attorney requested to have the case tried through drug court, Meacham said.

"It was a plea bargain to have the cases run through a drug court because it was a need for heroin that drove the crimes," Meacham said. Those found guilty will be required to go through court-mandated treatment, meet with representatives of the court and pay for the books they stole from the campus bookstore.

Brackett has chosen to complete his own private in-patient rehabilitation program in addition to the court-mandated program, Meacham said.

Some of the restrictions against Loren and Spencer were minimized because they cooperated and testified against Brackett, Meacham said. Searles refused a deal that would have given him the same sentence as Loren and Spencer, he said.

"We have gone ahead and brought all the charges we have," Meacham said, which means the prosecutor will try Searles on two counts of felony shoplifting and three counts of conspiracy in a trial to be held in late October or early November.

"The interesting thing about Searles," Meacham said, "is that even though he was a part of this group, he wasn't in the bookstore as much as the other three. So the deal for him would have been fantastic, and he refused it."

Roger Brooks, the campus bookstore manager, said there had been no shoplifting arrest at the bookstore since last spring, and no security changes had been made.

Meacham said, "We [campus police] are looking at not only the number of cameras we have in the bookstore, but also the placement of the cameras in the bookstore."

Along with monitoring the number and placement of the video cameras in the store, Meacham said the campus police hosted a second meeting of textbook retailers in colleges and universities.

"We highlighted some cases, and then we had the prosecutor in the Brackett case come in and just talk about, teach and discuss the shoplifting laws, the conspiracy laws and what the prosecutor's office is looking for from us, the retailers and law enforcement, in order to build a good case," Meacham said. "We plan on doing this meeting annually."

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Along with the meetings, Meacham said the campus police had implemented a new listserv in 2011 that included all colleges' and universities' bookstores in the state, police departments, and textbook retailers. If a textbook is stolen, the campus and retail stores can communicate to help to find it and help prevent future thefts, he said.

Contact contributing writer Amanda Minnitte at amanda.minnitte@richmond.edu

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