Bethesda woman accused of stealing $25,000 in classic novels from neighbor
BETHESDA, Md. (WJLA) - A Bethesda book collector is struggling to keep her business afloat, after police say an unsuspecting criminal burglarized her home. The stolen items include 50 classic books, many first editions, worth more than $25,000 combined.
Montgomery County Police have since charged Jordan's close friend and next-door-neighbor, Christina Wimmel, 31, of Bethesda, with three felony theft counts related to the crime.
"She took some of my best books and sold them for dimes on the dollar," collector Julia Jordan remarked. "This isn't just a hobby, it's my livelihood."
Jordan recently moved back to her childhood home along the 5700 block of Maiden Lane to care for her ailing parents. During that time, the avid reader sparked a friendship with Wimmel, who lives in a $1 million two-story brick home next-door.
"I counted her as a friend, I stuck up for her as a friend, and then she treated me rather horribly," Jordan added.
Over the course of a year, police say Wimmel stole some of Jordan's most prized possessions, including "The Compleat Gentleman" and "The Memoirs of No-Nosi." Some of the stolen hardback titles date back to the 1600s.
"A lot... over $20,000," Jordan said while standing in an upstairs bedroom where she once kept her collection of printed works.
Juggling a divorce, ill parents, and health issues of her own, Jordan was initially unaware of the thievery. In fact, a friend and fellow book dealer tipped her off to the crime when he purchased two books on eBay that were eerily similar to titles Jordan owned.
"I definitely had a pit in my stomach. I just could not believe it," Jordan recalled.
With the help of a court subpoena, investigators traced eBay user profile "chrisieanne2010" to Wimmel. According to documents filed in Montgomery County District Court, eBay's transaction history revealed Wimmel sold dozens of Jordan's books between Aug. 2013 and Jan. 2014, netting hundreds-of-dollars in turn.
Armed with a search warrant, police canvassed Wimmel's home where they found one stolen book in a bedroom closet. They also discovered postal receipts in the 31-year-old's purse. One listed an address in Mendenhall, PA, where one of Wimmel's eBay buyers resides.
Further fact finding led detectives to Second Story Books in Rockville. Owner Allen Stypeck told police Wimmel had walked into his shop with seven books in April. Stypeck paid Wimmel $300 for the antique publications worth an estimated $4,275.
ABC7 knocked on Wimmel's front door Monday morning, prompting her mother to speak from a cracked second floor window.
Reporter: "We'd like to talk to you though, can you come on down?
Mother: "No. You go and see the lawyer."
Reporter: "What did you say?
Mother: "The lawyer... you are not going to do anything."
ABC7 contacted Wimmel's attorney, Mark Binstock, but never heard back.
Court records show Wimmel has been in trouble with the law before. While attending Mary Washington College in 2004, police arrested the then 20-year-old for stealing her roommates credit card. Court documents state Wimmel, who later pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of identity theft, spent $2,000 at a local mall, mostly at Victoria's Secret. A judge sentenced her to ten days in jail, 100 hours of community service, counseling and the payment of court costs.
"She could get a job and make a way in her life, but I think this was easier than working," Jordan stated. "She really needs to grow up."
Although police have recovered about a quarter of the stolen books, Jordan fears the rest are gone for good.
"I thought I was a pretty good judge of character previously, and I was very off-base. That's just not what a friend does," Jordan concluded.