A book thief who stole two old texts worth thousands of dollars from an Upper East Side store got cold feet after the crime and tried to clear himself of responsibility by sending the books back in the mail – but cops still arrested him on Wednesday, sources said.
With the heat and investigators drawing closer after an unsuccessful attempt to sell the books – valued at around $ 25,000 – Hundiashvili broke down and sent the tomes in September, sources said.
But it was too late.
On Wednesday, detectives tracked down the 36-year-old to the Forest Hills home where he lives with his girlfriend and 1-year-old son and arrested him “at dawn,” sources said.
Hundiashvili, who says he works as a fashion photographer, told cops he had “remorse” for his alleged crime and claimed he only took the books to feed his family, officials said. sources at the Post.
“He has a one-year-old son and needed the money,” a source close to the investigation said.
The Israel-born thief took the rare 16th-century tomes – titled “Tibertide Chyromantion Hainz” and “Champer Duelluh Lyon” – from a store window on May 26, after visiting several times to break it.
Days later, the store owner noticed the rare books were missing after he couldn’t find one, and then took a full inventory of his collection, sources said.
The owner reported the theft to the cops, who found surveillance footage of the thief wearing red pants, a gray button-down shirt, black moccasins and black sunglasses.
He was carrying a black satchel while chatting on a cell phone.
Hundiashvili reportedly found it difficult to unload the books at other rare book stores in the city, as the stores are part of a small, tight-knit community.
“He tried to sell the books to another bookstore,” a source said. “But the owner had been notified of the theft and had seen footage of the suspect and alerted the company that he had stolen the books.”
Finally, Hundiashvili became so desperate that he returned the books to the Upper East Side store “because he knew his disappearance was happening,” another source said.
“The books are absolutely correct and in good condition,” the source said.
Hundiashvili has been charged with robbery and criminal possession of stolen property and could be returned to Israel.