August 13, 2012 at 2:55 PM HST - Updated June 27 at 10:37 PM
By KELLI KENNEDY Associated Press
MIAMI (AP) - A mother and son stole more than $2 million in expensive toys by stashing them inside the boxes of cheaper products that they bought at Toys R Us stores across the U.S., authorities say.
Broward County Sheriff's deputies say Michael and Margaret Pollara then sold the big-ticket items online, according to an arrest affidavit. They were arrested Thursday and face a bevy of theft charges. Both remain in jail, and it's not clear if either has an attorney.
Michael and Margaret Pollara visited 139 Toys R Us in 27 states, including California, Hawaii and New York, buying nearly $7,000 worth of small-ticket items to fuel their scam, according to the affidavit. Authorities were able to track Michael Pollara's purchases across the country because he used a Toys R Us rewards card for all of his purchases.
Authorities said the Pollaras trolled stores looking for inexpensive toys that came in large boxes. They then emptied out the contents and filled the large box with more expensive toys, including $150 Lego sets and Leapster Pads, worth $99 apiece. The pair would hide the cheap contents somewhere around the store and pay for the inexpensive large box filled with more expensive goodies. Seventy-year-old Margaret Pollara often worked as a lookout, according to the arrest report.
Authorities tracked the two for months, watching them allegedly steal from various stores around the state and later ship packages filled with toys. Michael Pollara, 46, had more than $900,000 in eBay and PayPal accounts, according to the report.
Authorities began following the two in May after a Toys R Us employee in South Florida noticed that several large Lego boxes were missing even though she had seen them on the shelf earlier that morning. Store video showed Michael Pollara carrying the Lego box in the toy aisle, but the video did not show him actually removing the contents. He used a Toys R Us rewards card, which helped authorities track his purchases around the country.
eBay and PayPal are owned by eBay Inc.
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