Toy thief wanted to rip off stores in all 50 states, police say
Michael Pollara, 46, and Margaret Pollara, 70, were tracked down because of their use of a rewards card, police say.
August 14th, 2012
01:43 PM ET

Toy thief wanted to rip off stores in all 50 states, police say

Police in Florida say they have busted a mother-and-son team whose goal was to steal thousands of items from toy stores in every state and then sell them online for millions of dollars.

Police say Michael Pollara, 46, and Margaret Pollara, 70, would go into toy stores and pick out big boxes containing cheap toys, then replace the cheap contents with more expensive toys including Harry Potter Lego sets, Leap Pads, and InnoTabs. They would then go to the checkout line, where cashiers would ring up the box for the marked price, not knowing that inside were toys worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, according to police.

"(Michael Pollara) made it a goal of his to steal from all 50 states within one year, which he was very proud of," Broward Sheriff's Office Sgt. Rick Rossman said during a press conference.

The pair had stolen merchandise worth at least thousands of dollars from 139 Toys R Us locations across 27 states, according to the arrest affidavit. And then there were all the other stores, including Kmart, CVS and other retailers they had hit.

"This is without a doubt the No. 1 prolific booster that we’ve ever come across," Rossman said. "He basically is a one-man show. His mother participated in some of the thefts."

Police opened an investigation that involved undercover surveillance and tracking of the pair after a theft report was made in May by a Toys R Us store in Boynton Beach, Florida.

When officers began investigating the theft case, they noticed a purchase was made with a loyalty/rewards card. And that's what did Pollara in. When police looked up the rewards card they traced it back to a woman and noticed several purchases in a number of states.  Police then began tracking all of the purchases made using the loyalty card around the country as well as at the 31 Toys R Us stores in Florida.

"Michael traveled the entire country doing this.  He was a one-man wrecking crew," Rossman said. "He called it the art of stealing."

Pollara sold most of the items on eBay, police said. His records from the online auction site and PayPal show that he sold the items under accounts named LineMart or Buymart-USA. Those two accounts alone took in a total of $909,000.

That money was apparently used to travel around the country.

"He wanted to personally thank CVS for paying for his vacation to Hawaii in February," Rossman said, reporting what Pollara said during questioning. "(Shoplifting) supports his travel around the world."

A spokeswoman for the Broward County Sheriff's Office said that when police showed Pollara a map of all of the places they had connected him to, he told them the map wasn't right - that he had hit more stores than that.

"He's been stealing like this every day for 10 years," Rossman told reporters. "For 10 years this is what he's done."

Police began following the pair, and an unknown man present during the thefts, as they hit different stores. The pair was arrested on Thursday. Michael Pollara was charged with one count of dealing in stolen property, five counts of grand theft, four counts of criminal conspiracy and two counts of felony petit theft, according to the arrest report. His mother is facing one count of organized scheme to defraud, two counts of grand theft, two counts of criminal conspiracy, and one count of theft. Police have not yet arrested the third person.

The pair remain in jail. It is unclear if either has hired an attorney or had one appointed by the court.

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Filed under: Crime • Florida • U.S.
soundoff (294 Responses)
  1. DaveYoung

    Why didn`t tthey plan to rob in all 57 states ? Barack wants to know.

    August 14, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. DC

    Can we kick Florida out of the Union...please? This state is nothing but bad news

    August 14, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      They were caught in Florida dip chit.

      August 14, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • GFYM DC

      DC, please GFYM and after that GFYC.

      August 14, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. PurpleHaze26

    He kinda looks a little like Eddie Vedder.

    August 14, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • AmLowLife

      And she kinda looks like Ozzy...

      August 14, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • SSS

      So does his mom.

      August 14, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bookldy209

    Actually, I find this story quite comforting in sharing just how stupid criminals can be. It gives me hope for the good guys.

    August 14, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • cedar rapids

      except these stupid criminals were at it for 10 years and got away with at least close to a million dollars.

      August 14, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duped again

      Agreed, stupid indeed. Especially for using the same credit card. Unfortunately, he was allowed to be stupid for 10 years and raked in nearly a million dollars.

      August 14, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Truthdetector

    This is why inbreeding is against the law in the other 49 states.

    August 14, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • john

      Ding ! You hit it on the head ! Give that man a cupie doll !

      August 14, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. LL

    When I first read the headline I first thought," Isn't that part of the plot of Kindergarden Cop?"

    August 14, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. The Grinch

    Hey, that's my job!

    August 14, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jesus Christ Superstar

    A) Broward representing! 954!

    B) This is nothing new. My friends were doing this in walmart stores in high school in the early 2000's. But they were never caught by the Broward Sheriff.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. diluded000

    Now, thanks to these two fine specimens, we will have to wait for the cashier to open every box that goes out of Toys-R-Us. Or better yet, do like Best Buy, and wait in line twice: once to pay and once to get the product.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. andzia

    Why give the exact detail of what them busted? Could be useful in other situations as well.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. illuminasty

    Why did Phyllis Diller have to resort to something this low?

    August 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. tj

    You mean they actually got caught with this brilliant plan?!?

    August 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Colleen Mellor

    So, stores like TJMaxx look at both shoes when one buys to make sure no one's switched the sizes (like in the many cases one's feet are different sizes) but Toys R Us employees never looked in a big box to check out its items???!!! Unbelievable! Well, these two are the Bonnie & Clyde of the toy world, tho' they don't fit the glamorous image (before they got shot up). Now they can enjoy their 'rewards' in the local pen (1 n?)

    August 14, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. HycoWhit

    Reward card–seriously?!

    August 14, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ArtInChicago

    Oh Gawd!!! Let her sell the toys to get the cosmetic surgery!!!

    August 14, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • snowdogg

      My eyes are hurtin'

      August 14, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
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