Newspaper thefts at Temple U. bring total to 7 nationwide in one week

PENNSYLVANIA — Student journalists at Temple Universityare the latest victims in a rash of newspaper thefts that hitseven college newspapers in a seven-day period ending last week.

About 9,000 copies of the Temple News were swiped fromnewsstands Feb. 28, of which 6,000 were later recovered. The incidentcame a week after 9,000 copies of the Feb. 21 News werestolen.

Both editions featured stories about Temple freshman PreshalIyar, who was arrested Feb. 8 and charged with mail fraud. Afterlearning of the thefts, editor Brian Swope notified campus security,who have deferred to detectives with the university police.

According to an article posted on the paper’s Web site Feb.28, several eyewitnesses reported seeing Iyar and at least onemale accomplice removing the papers from distribution stands.Iyar has since confessed to university officials, Swope said.

Greg Rost, chief of staff for the president’s office at theuniversity, could not directly confirm Swope’s account.

"One of the alleged perpetrators has admitted to her involvementand that student is being referred to the university disciplinarycommittee," Rost said. "And our campus security is continuingits investigation in an attempt to identify the other perpetrator,who is believed to be a student."

Iyar is awaiting trial on federal mail fraud charges, allegedlyhaving swindled individuals in New Hampshire, California and Texasout of nearly $30,000. The victims received telephone calls tellingthem they had been selected for a large cash gift from a charityand that they needed to make a tax payment to collect the prize.Iyar is accused of signing for the packages that contained thesepayments.

"We had more than enough to get her," Swope said."We had video surveillance [footage] of her actually stealingthe papers and we actually have a photo of one of the other guysbut the cops haven’t put a name with a face."

The matter of the thefts has been referred to the universitydisciplinary committee, in front of whom Iyar was already scheduledto appear for the alleged mail fraud scam. School officials seeminclined to handle the issue internally.

"Both patrol and investigative unit personnel will makeperiodic checks of Temple News boxes in an attempt to deteranyone else from removing them in bulk," Rost said. "Wetake this matter very seriously."

"I just really don’t buy that," Swope said of theuniversity’s response. "I don’t see [the theft] as beingtaken very seriously."

"If we can find out who the other [accomplices] are,"Swope added, "we’re definitely looking into taking it toan outside investigation, even going as far as prosecuting."

The Temple News prints 10,000 copies per issue, withprinting and salary costs totaling $4,000 for each run. The paperreceived $13,000 in advertising revenue for the two issues, Swopesaid, but has not heard from any advertisers and currently hasno plans to issue refunds, since many copies of the Feb. 28 issuewere recovered.

The theft marked the seventh such incident in the seven-dayperiod ending Feb. 28. In addition to the two thefts at Temple,thieves swiped copies of student publications at the Universityof Southern California, (Feb. 22), American University (Feb. 25),University of California at Berkeley (Feb. 26), University ofMissouri at Columbia (Feb. 26) and Emporia State University (Feb.28). In all, 30,900 copies were stolen.

View the Temple News stories from the Feb. 21 edition and Feb. 28 edition about the mail fraud incident.Visit our Newspaper Theft Forum, featuring a checklist of things to do before, during and after a theft, along with our past coverage of theft incidents.