A semi trailer containing 1,600 copies of “The Cornbread Mafia” by Kentucky author James Higdon was stolen from a storage lot in Elgin, Ill., on the night of April 28, according to police in the town, located about 40 miles west of Chicago.
The trailer contained the book’s entire second printing, as well as shipments of hardware fasteners, sheet steel, copper wire and 10 pallets of electric coffee makers.
Higdon’s book tells the story of the rise and fall of a Marion County-based group of marijuana growers and smugglers that federal prosecutors called the largest domestic pot syndicate ever uncovered.
Among the crimes described in the book is the 1956 hijacking of a shipment of bowling alley machinery in Danville, Ky.
According to Lt. Sean Rafferty of the Elgin police department, three other semi trailers were stolen from the same lot in the days before the one containing the book shipment disappeared. The other stolen trailers were empty.
At 1 a.m. last Friday, Elgin police caught two men who pulled a semi tractor onto the unfenced lot, hitched an empty trailer to it and began driving away. The driver, Perica Todorovic, was charged with aggravated possession of a stolen vehicle, receiving or possessing a stolen motor vehicle, and one count of theft. The passenger was not charged.
According to Rafferty, Todorovic worked for the shipping company that operated the lot, Nationwide Freight Systems, until three months ago.
Police have not charged Todorovic with the previous thefts, nor have they recovered the other trailers. The books remain missing.
According to Rafferty, the person responsible for the thefts likely either sold the trailers or used them to haul their own cargo. “If they didn’t have a purpose for the empty trailer, we would have recovered it,” he said. “Chances are they found a use for it or to scrap it for the metal.”
Rafferty said police did not consider the books to be the target of the theft.
According to Bill Flavin, vice president of Lake Book Manufacturing of Melrose Park, Ill., the company that printed the copies of “Cornbread Mafia,” a replacement print run was already under way.
Reporter Matt Frassica can be reached at (502) 582-4502.