Looking Back: Stealing in January, 1996

In January 1996, someone broke into the Oakland Center through a window and proceeded to steal loose change from video game machines as well as breaking into one of the building’s safes and taking around $50.

The kicker? The act of vandalism was suspected by the Oakland University community to be an inside job.

At 5:41 a.m. on Jan. 12, Lori Coffey, Marriott food service manager arrived at the OC and noticed there were signs of forced entry in two rooms, and that one safe appeared to have been broken in to.

It wasn’t until later that Public Safety officers, a subset of the Oakland University Police Department, noticed that two video game machines and a pinball machine had been looted as well.

The night manager had secured the building on that Thursday night at 11:30 p.m., so police determined the break in had to have occurred after that time.

Police soon recovered two of the tools used to break into the building, and found the vandals entered into room 112 of the OC, where the safe was stored.

Fingerprints and other evidence were gathered by Oakland University Police Department officers and the Oakland County Sheriff Department in the hopes of identifying a suspect, but The Oakland Post’s articles do not show any leads when the incident was first being investigated.

However, one thing stood out to police. Most of the everyday OC visitors had no clue there was a safe in the room and would therefore have no motivation to stage a break-in.

This led many to suspect that the act was an inside job.

However, The Oakland Post never reported on any resolution of the case.

So, it is unclear if these suspicions turned out to be valid.

But, surprisingly, this wasn’t the only case of thievery in reported in January 1996.

A few weeks later Mary Paige, a former secretary in Graham Health Center, was charged with embezzling money from the GHC. Allegedly, she stole $2,113 from the counseling center’s deposits.

This could have happened when the secretary mislabelled which money went to what people through certain payments, leaving some of the GHC’s money unaccounted for.

The incident came about after an internal audit, which uncovered over $42,600 in missing funds.

This number was expected to grow as  the investigation continued, according to The Oakland Post’s initial story on the incident.

Even though she was only charged with $2,113 of the missing funds, she was facing seven additional felony charges up to $1,124 and a maximum 10-year prison sentence if she was charged guilty of the crime.

However, not all cases of thievery in 1996 ended as poorly as these.

Just before Paige went on trial, over 900 books which had been stolen from Kresge Library turned up out of the blue.

The stolen books were found on a loading dock in Highland Park.

A man who found them tried to sell them to a used bookstore, when the owner discovered they were part of the missing collection. The man had no idea the books were stolen, and turned them over to authorities upon learning who the stolen property belonged to.

Of the books recovered in Highland, 400 belonged to other universities, while all of the 906 missing from Oakland were found in the group of books.

There was still no word on who stole the books at the time of The Oakland Post’s publication. There was no substantial follow-up with the story.

In one month, Oakland was rocked with three major robberies.

Looks like The Oakland Post was forced to run a lot of crime stories in 1996. But we’re happy to report that Oakland’s campus is a much tamer place today.

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