Hello! My name is Chas Allen and I’m an author, public speaker, entrepreneur and life coach, but most famously I’m know for my role in the Transylvania Book Heist. When I was 19, myself and three others attempted to steal first edition books and paintings valued at over twelve million dollars, from the Transylvania University library. Among the items stolen were John James Audubon’s “Birds of American Collection” and Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species.” We were eventually caught and were sentenced to seven years in federal prison.

In jail, I found myself at rock bottom and made the choice to turn my life around. In my new book “Evolution: Becoming a Criminal” I depict how my upbringing and personal struggles led me to my involvement in the criminal act, and the growth and development that transpired once heading to prison and being released. The story of my youth has also been turned into a major motion picture. “American Animals,” written and directed by Bart Layton stars Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Jared Abrahamson, and Blake Jenner. The film was released on June 1.

My book is being released on June 19th and you can pre-order it here - https://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Becoming-Criminal-Chas-Allen/dp/1628655380 Follow along with my journey on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook: @chasallen. Thanks!

Proof: https://i.redd.it/a6y52a17pe311.jpg

EDIT: Thank you all so much for your time and thoughtful questions. Each one us has the right to our opinion, and I'm grateful for this platform that allows us to express and exchange ideas so freely.

Comments: 2814 • Responses: 30  • Date: 

Robby_Fabbri8457 karma

Can I steal your book?

OfficialChasAllen1473 karma

I wouldn't recommend it.

Mindlayr1816 karma

What was your role? How did you get caught? Who's idea was it?

OfficialChasAllen2659 karma

I was the last person to become involved in the heist, when they initially approached me about it, I said no for about a year, and then because of personal issues going on in my life, I eventually agreed to take part in it. I was the getaway driver.

We took the books to Christie's Auction House in NY, even though I vehemently disagreed because my family owned an auction house at the time and I understood the appraising process. Christie's researched the history of the books, the F.B.I. contacted them, and Spencer had given Christie's the number to his cell phone. Several months after the actual heist, we were arrested by a F.B.I. SWAT team.

Spencer initially saw the books during a private tour of the art program, Warren was the one who drove the idea of actually stealing the books.

SaltyBabe372 karma

Jesus Christ, why would anyone agree to work with such complete morons?? You guys deserved to be caught.

OfficialChasAllen549 karma

We did deserve to be caught and I'm glad we were.

McCayYNWA1248 karma

If you were able to get away with it, what would you have done with the stolen items? I can only imagine how hard it is to move stuff like that.

OfficialChasAllen1669 karma

The idea was to sell the items to an overseas black market buyer in Amsterdam who "supposedly" agreed to pay 12 million dollars for the entire collection of John James Audubon's "Birds of America."

thewayitgoes819 karma

Saw the movie...

Why did you guys decide to not wear the costumes for the 2nd attempt? Or at least why not change costumes? Going in without disguises seems like a near certain way to get caught considering the heist was on a campus where you actively attend school and have peers who could recognize you. What was the logic?

OfficialChasAllen971 karma

Because the costumes were ridiculous.

bustnutsonbuttsluts720 karma

When did you know you were busted?

OfficialChasAllen1335 karma

Immediately after Warren and Spencer came back from the meeting at Christie's Auction House. Spencer said he shared his personal cell phone number that could be traced back to him with Christie's.

recourse7600 karma

When you spoke to your partners about these risks. Why did they ignore your advice?

Why did you get involved with people who clearly weren't bright enough?

OfficialChasAllen694 karma

I can only speak from my perspective, for that answer you'd have to ask them.

At the time, I wasn't thinking clearly and I had many lapses of judgment that I'm not proud of.

Spikito1450 karma

I'm curious about how the interrogation/investigation process went. Since this was just "3 dumb college kids", but that they managed to pull off such a big operation. Did they sit you down in a empty room and play good cop bad cop? Did you fess up right away?

Also, did you appropriately care for the books once in possession? Were they kept safe or just sitting on a coffee table?

OfficialChasAllen649 karma

There was a warrant for the arrest of Warren and Spencer. Many other people were brought in for questioning. The interrogation was to separate us all and question us all individually. Eventually, the interrogators produced a warrant for my arrest, I contacted an attorney and I pled guilty in acceptance of responsibility, as ultimately we all did.

The books were put away and cared for but it was nowhere near the care they deserved.

suaveitguy266 karma

Where in the prisoner hierarchy did failed antiquarian book thief land you? Was that hierarchy palpable, or is it more of a pop culture invention?

OfficialChasAllen340 karma

In prison there is a lot of division. I made an effort to get along with everyone, and approached the hierarchy democratically. There hierarchy is palpable there, but mostly people want to get along with one another and as hard as it may seem from the outside looking in, people are just doing their best.

MattySTOCKS219 karma

Are you planning on participating in this AMA at all or just plugging your book?

OfficialChasAllen139 karma

I'm answering as quick as I can.

revohitta20 karma

Was it worth it ?

OfficialChasAllen73 karma

No, I'm sorry for the pain I caused, and the crime I committed. My experiences have led me to not believe in regret, but in acceptance of what is, in order to move forward.

revohitta10 karma

You know, in the movies, when the characters usually leave the country after a big heist like this. Why didn't you leave? Was it discussed?

I ask this because according to your other replies, the fbi arrested you 7 months after the initial crime . That's more than enough time bro

OfficialChasAllen29 karma

The buyer "backed out" which caused the four of us to argue about what to do next. The crime happened in December, we were arrested in February.

We had considered leaving, but the F.B.I. had tapped our phones and arrested us before we could leave.