Michael Pollara and his mother, Margaret, of Tamarac, Florida were arrested Thursday after they allegedly stole over a million dollars' worth of toys from stores across the nation in order to sell them online for a profit. Pollara, 46, was booked into the Broward County Main Jail on various charges, including 13 counts of grand theft, felony petty theft, criminal conspiracy, and dealing in stolen property. His bail bond was set at $318,500. His mother, who is 70 years old, was booked into a detention facility on six counts of grand theft, petty theft, organized scheme to defraud, and criminal conspiracy. Her bail bond was set at $29,100. It is unclear whether either of the defendants has retained a private criminal defense attorney.
Reports indicate that Pollara visited retail stores, such as Toys'R'Us, and searched for inexpensive toys in large boxes. He would then empty out the boxes and re-fill them with more expensive toys and games, sometimes using his own mother as a look out, investigators allege. Authorities say that Pollara would stuff the boxes with $150 Lego sets, Leapfrogs, and other valuable goods. He would then check out at a cash register, an act investigators referred to as "box-stuffing."
Sources say that Pollara, an avid traveler, pulled off heists like this in 27 states throughout the country, including California, New York, and Hawaii. "He left from Tamarac, drove all the way to North Dakota and back, impacting retailers across the country. Michael traveled the entire country doing this. He was a one man wrecking crew," a member of the Broward Sheriff's Office told reporters. "It was one of his goals to visit all 50 states and commit thefts in all 50 states."
Investigators claim that Pollara would sell his stolen goods online using ecommerce websites such as eBay. One report indicated that Pollara had in excess of $900,000 in eBay and PayPal accounts. "The financial impact of this -- just talking to a couple of the retailers -- is $4-5 million," a sergeant at the Broward's Sheriff's Office was quoted as telling reporters.
Police had been tracking Pollara and his mother for two months, sources say. Detectives reportedly reviewed surveillance footage of the duo committing acts of theft in stores throughout the country. In one video from a Broward County store, Pollara can reportedly be seen packaging video games into an emptied box while his mother keeps a lookout.
Investigators informed reporters that they were able to track Pollara's purchases across country because he used a Toys'R'Us rewards card for all of his purchases. Officers were made aware of Pollara's stealing spree back in May, when a Toys'R'Us employee from South Florida noted that various Lego sets had gone missing after she had put them on the shelf the same morning. Upon inspection of surveillance footage from that store, Pollara can allegedly be seen carrying a Lego box around the toy isle, though the footage does not show him removing any of the contents.
"Without a doubt this is the most prolific booster -- the term for a shoplifter -- that we've ever come across," a sergeant with the BSO told reporters.