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Academic Says Memoir Writer Defamed Her

NEW CITY, N.Y. (CN) - A Columbia University research associate claims the memoir "Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer's Life," implies that she belongs to a mythical Colombian criminal gang. Gladys Maestre sued author Michael Greenberg and his publisher, Other Press, in Rockland County Court.

Other Press in published Greenberg's book in 2009.

Maestre, an M.D.-Ph.D., went to medical school in Venezuela and received a doctoral degree from Columbia University.

According to the complaint: "A passage in the book, starting on page 105, identifying the plaintiff as possessing a Ph.D. and being a faculty member at Columbia University, implies that the plaintiff is a member of a criminal gang from Columbia [sic], South America, that is involved in, amongst other things, jewelry theft, by stating the following:

'I wonder if Gladys was fronting for a gang of con artists from the School of Seven Bells in the Columbian [sic] highlands, which I have been hearing about for years. Students at Seven Bells learn pick-pocketing, jewelry theft, and various fast-talking cons.'"

(The South American country is spelled Colombia.)

Maestre says she "is not a member of any criminal gang and has never been involved in any criminal activity."

There is no proof that a School of the Seven Bells exists, but according to legend, it is a training ground for thieves, named after an exam students must pass.

To pass the test, a would-be pickpocket must rob someone without disturbing any of the seven bells strategically placed around the mark's body.

Maestre seeks damages for libel. She is represented by Peter Zirbes of Forest Hills.

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