A childless St. Paul woman allegedly created library cards for 24 imaginary children in order to steal thousands of dollars in video games and DVDs from the Ramsey County library system.
Nhia Vue, who turns 23 Thursday, has been charged in Ramsey County District Court with one count of theft.
According to the complaint, she checked out 50 video games, 41 DVDs and 21 books from different county public library branches between May 13 and June 4. The items were valued at just over $4,100.
The charges said she pawned 46 games and 22 DVDs. Authorities recovered some of the items, which showed signs of tampering. Library labels were peeled off and library markings on the DVDs were blackened with a permanent marker, the charges allege.
"I've never had … anyone take advantage of the library system in quite this way," Library Director Susan Nemitz said. "It's wildly disappointing."
Vue allegedly had 25 library cards, 24 of them in the names of different fake children.
A search of Vue's home in June allegedly recovered more than two dozen DVDs that belonged to the county library. Most of the stolen items, taken from four branches, were returned, Nemitz said.
"Vue admitted she doesn't have any children and each of the accounts she created is for a fictitious person," the charges said. "Vue claimed her problems started because she is disabled and cannot stand on her foot for a long period of time.
An employee who worked in circulation identified "irregular activity" linked to Vue, Nemitz said. Vue's name was listed as a parent on some of the fake children's cards.
According to the complaint, "She said her boyfriend and his cousin told her that if she borrowed items and didn't return them, the money would come out of her taxes."
She allegedly told authorities that she knew what she did was wrong, but that she needed money for food and spending.
"I didn't look at it as stealing," she said, according to charges. "I looked at it as borrowing. I thought I could pay them back on my taxes."
The complaint says that Vue also allegedly stole $1,638 worth of similar items from Anoka County's library system.