Thursday, December 12, 2013


Earlier this week at his Bleeding Cool website, Rich Johnston ran
the incredible report of a guy who stole expensive comic books from
a Missisauga (Canada) comic-book shop.  The store has the thief on
camera spending close to two hours selecting his ill-gotten booty.
You can and should read the entire story at Bleeding Cool, but I’ll
give you the short form:

The thief was pissed because he had been turned down by a bank for
the loan he needed to open his own shop.  He decided to acquire the
desired funds by robbing an existing shop.  He got caught when he
put one of the stolen comics up for sale on eBay.  He isn’t just a
crook.  He’s a stupid crook.

That’s where the story took a truly bizarre turn.  The idiot thief
began posting about his criminal acts and the aftermath on Twitter.
He wasn’t sorry about the theft.  He was sorry that he got caught.
He couldn’t grasp why no one understood why he had to do what he
did and why he was angry.  He couldn’t understand why he might go
to jail for these crimes.  After all, he gave his word - his word -
that he would never steal again.  Man, did that part of the story
bring back some memories of my own dozen years owning and
operating a comics shop.

Digression. The mention of my old comics shop will almost certainly
trigger another absurd and vile outburst from an anonymous coward
who attempts to post to this blog at least once a month.  He’s as
predictable as the sunrise.

In many of Fraidy Cat’s attempted posts, he bleats about the awful
injustices he believes I did to several Cleveland-area individuals
during that time.  What all the people he names have in common is
that they were all thieves who stole from me or others and who were
subsequently caught by me or others and who paid a price for their
crimes.  Poor babies.

I’m not going to name names because, in the long run, things turned
out pretty good for me and not so good for them.  I don’t need to
gloat.  They were the architects of their own fates.  I took some
mostly minor lumps as the result of their crimes, but those lumps
haven’t prevented me from achieving the incredibly full and happy
life I now enjoy.  End of digression.

The delusional thief from Canada reminds me of three of the people
who stole from me.  Their rationales for what they did or why they
shouldn’t have been punished for what they did are, viewed from two
decades or more distance, hilarious.  In relating these histories,
I’ll withhold all but the most pertinent facts.

There was the individual who embezzled a few thousand dollars from
a new business and almost prevented that business from meeting its
payroll and supply obligations.  I came to realize he was a guy who
would rather make a dishonest dollar than an honest dollar, a guy
who saw himself as a master con artist.  When he got caught, when
he was forced to sell his stock in the business - stock he had not
yet paid for - when he was dismissed from the business, he claimed
it wasn’t really stealing because he was an owner of the business.
He escaped jail as a result of the above, was paid for the stock he
had never paid for and was even given severance pay he surely did
not deserve.  For the next decade or so, he tried a number of dumb
schemes to try to get revenge on me.

But it wasn’t really stealing, right?

Then there was the employee who admitted he had been stealing comic
books from my store on a weekly basis.  I made it pretty easy for
him because my employees were on the honor system.  They got their
comics at my cost and were expected to pay for them when they got
their weekly paycheck.  I never checked on this because, as I have
said in other bloggy things, I was a lousy businessman.

When the store hit a rough patch, this guy was laid off.  I had to
cut expenses and he was my least reliable employee.  He got angry,
threatened me and, later, by way of apology, admitted he had been
stealing comics from me.  When I told him his theft contributed to
the store’s financial woes, he was dumbfounded.  He assumed I had
figured employee theft into my budget.  I didn’t hire him back when
the store’s finances improved.

I should have expected him to steal from me, right?

Then there’s the former employee who wanted to start his own comics
shop.  I had turned down his offer to take over my store and pay me
out of the doubtless greater profits he would make from the store.
But, though the guy had issues like you wouldn’t believe, I wanted
him to succeed and even helped him open his store.  I even vouched
for him with the local distributor and guaranteed his first orders.
Because, as noted, I was a lousy businessman.

On a quiet Labor Day weekend - it was a Sunday morning - I drove to
my store to pick up some paperwork.  The door was unlocked.  When
I turned on the lights, there was my former employee.  As I later
learned, he had made copies of the store keys before he opened his
own store.  He made weekly clandestine trips to the store to stock
his store from my store.  When maintenance people from the arcade
where my store was located saw him in my store, they assumed he was
still working for me.  I’ll never know how much stock he stole from
me during the several weeks this went on.

He was arrested and charged.  He pled guilty.  He was sentenced to
probation and ordered to pay what amounted to a token restitution.
Generous fool that I am, I offered to take the restitution in comic
books and asked the judge to cut the amount of restitution in half.
The judge was amazed by my generosity. 

The judge also ordered my former employee to pay (in cash or check)
for the three hundred dollars it had cost me to change the locks in
my store.  My former employee objected to this and pissed off the
judge by doing so.  He ended up having to write me a check on the
spot.  He was glaring at me the whole time.

The judge offered me the chance to withdraw my earlier generosity,
but I declined.  I was a lousy...oh, you know the drill.

This is building to a punch line.  Just be patient.

It was agreed I would go my former employee’s store on a Sunday to
select a thousand dollars worth of merchandise.  The choice of day
and time - when his store was closed - was so his customers would
not be aware of what he’d done. This was at my suggestion because
I know.

When I arrived at the store with a friend, the store was closed and
there was no sign of my former employee.  When I called my former
employee, he informed me he wasn’t going to come to the store and
allow me to select my court-ordered restitution.

Remember the embezzler from earlier? He was sitting in a car across
the street from the store.  As he often did whenever he thought he
might have a shot at me, he had flocked to the side of my thieving
former employee.  These two geniuses expected I would lose my cool
and vandalize the comics shop.  I didn’t.  I may have been a lousy
businessman, but I wasn’t that stupid.

Facing his probation being revoked, my former employee did finally
fulfill the court-ordered restitution.  Generous idiot that I was,
I actually took him out to dinner afterwards and even invited the
embezzler along. know.

My former employee’s rationale for stealing from my store was that
his own store was a money pit from the day he opened it.  He felt
he could turn that around.  Not having to pay for stock would help.
He swore he planned to confess eventually and pay me back for all
the merchandise he’d stolen.  He had a one-year lease.  His store
closed exactly one year after he’d opened it.

Here’s the punch line I promised...

Several reputable sources told me my former employee often bitched
about my having pressed charges against him.  As he would explain
it, he had his late father’s Army knife with him when I caught him
in the store that Sunday morning.  I saw the knife on a counter and
it was a truly nasty piece of cutlery.  Had the prosecutor chosen,
he could have added a weapons charge to the case.


My former employee would tell people he could have killed me in my
store that morning.  I should have been grateful for his not killing
me and given him a pass on the charges for not killing me.

Because it would have totally been justified for him to have killed
me, right?

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella


  1. Tony, you are, or were, a much more magnanimous person than I could ever be. Nice guys do finish first, I guess.

  2. The last story is actually chilling. I'm glad it didn't turn out to be much worse and you have to wonder about someone who would think in terms like that.

  3. A buddy of mine worked at a comic shop many years ago. The shop had a policy for accepting used comics in trade for merchandise. Since the shop also sold candy, they'd get kids bringing in last month's comics to exchange for candy bars.

    One time, my buddy says, a couple kids came in with several comics that he knew hadn't been bought at their shop. They all had UPC codes on the cover, and as you'll remember, Tony, back in the '80s, Direct Market comics didn't have the UPC symbol.

    My buddy guessed that the comics had been shoplifted from a drugstore or a supermarket or something; but he couldn't prove anything. So what he did was take each comic, one by one, and began copying down the number under the UPC code.

    "What are you doing?" the kids asked.

    "You see these numbers here? This number is the code for the store the comic was bought at. Sometimes people steal comics, see? And so our policy is to take down the numbers and call the stores to see if they have any missing, as a courtesy."

    The kids's eyes got real big. They took their candy. And never came back.