Man steals Toys for Tots charity box at UPS store

December 10, 2010 8:10:04 PM PST
We have surveillance video of the man who could be called the Grinch who stole Christmas, and what he did may mean some needy children won't have a very merry Christmas.

Investigators hope the video Eyewitness News has obtained will help catch the criminal. The theft happened in a matter of seconds, and money that would have been spent on books for underprivileged kids in this community is now gone.

On each paper teddy bear inside a southwest Harris County UPS store, you'll find the name of someone who donated money to help economically disadvantaged kids get a better education. It's the mission of the Toys for Tots Literacy Program.

"The donations and everything collected here goes to the local community where we buy books for the young kids," the store's owner, Raj Patel, said.

But one customer who came in to send a fax had something else in mind. When the clerk wasn't looking, the man stole the donation box by shoving it under his shirt then down his pants before walking out. A security camera caught him red-handed.

"Honestly, I think it's kind of sad because those kids need it more than we do, especially 'cause it's Christmas time," said Hadil Oweineh, who was the clerk behind the register when the theft occurred.

What's more, Oweineh says, the suspected thief then came back into the store and paid for the fax using some of the money he had just stolen.

"I think it's desperate times, maybe. Or he's an amateur. I don't know. Maybe he needed the money more than everyone else," Patel said.

Customers like Mirza Ahmed, who've donated before, are annoyed.

"He should learn a lesson," Ahmed said. "Go to jail for a year or so because it's for the kids."

Another employee noticed the cash box was missing about 10 minutes after it was stolen. They solved the mystery once they looked at security recording.

Patel wants him caught.

"I had a customer. She said, 'If you catch that guy call me.' I said, 'Why?' She said, 'I'll be the first one to punch him.' I don't know why but she said that," Patel said.

The suspect made off with about $150. Harris County Sheriff's Office is investigating. If you know who the man is in that surveillance video, call the sheriff's office immediately.


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