SULPHUR, LA (KPLC-TV) – Authorities are trying to find the person or persons responsible for stealing thousands of dollars worth of toys that were meant for children of low-income families.
John Lamar, area coordinator for the Southwest Louisiana Toys for Tots program, said he made the discovery on Saturday, after he went to a local store in Sulphur to collect the toys from the donation bin. The store manager informed him that someone from the charity had already been by to pickup the toys. Lamar said that person was an imposter.
Lamar then checked in with about 70 other retailers across Calcasieu Parish. Each of the retailers reported the same thing: someone claiming to be with Toys for Tots had already been through to pickup the donations.
"Every store we went to, all the toys were gone, except one or two or three or four," said Lamar.
Lamar said the thief or thieves probably knew the best time to strike was on Black Friday, when donations would be overflowing and store workers would be too busy helping customers to pay full attention to the bins.
"How can someone steal from a kid?" asked Lamar. "How can you steal from a kid?"
The only store in which the imposters were not successful was at the Walgreens located on U.S. 171. The manager there found the person claiming to be a Toys for Tots volunteer to look too suspicious, according to Lamar.
A manager with one local retailer told 7 News that video tape surveillance, which likely captured the thief or thieves on camera, has been turned over to local authorities.
Workers with the Walgreens on Beglis Parkway in Sulphur said as soon as customers started hearing about the stolen toys, they immediately started calling, wanting to replace some of the merchandise.
Lamar said area retailers have been informed to call him whenever someone drops by to pickup toys so he can verify their identity. He also says his volunteers will have a Toys for Tots logo on their shirt and carry an identification badge.
Despite the theft, Lamar said the 18,000 children in SWLA who benefit from Toys for Tots will have a great Christmas this year.
"We're going to make it happen," he said. "The people in this community I know are going to make it happen."
To find the nearest Toys for Tots drop-off bin, call (337) 515-2639.