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. KWS

    Loading expensive small things into cheap big packages so you can steal them? ... Clever!

    Using your store membership card every time so you can be tracked throughout your crime spree? ...PRICELESS!

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


      August 14, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Like a BOSS

      Lex Luthor they are not!

      August 14, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Michael

    This isn't anything new. I've worked in Asset Protections for two major retail stores over the last 20 years. The only difference now is that instead of trying to just return the merchandise for cash refunds without receipts, they use online sites like ebay.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. DontPretend

    Were they really planning to fly to HI and AK to steal toys? Wouldn't the cost of the flights wiped out their profits? Why would you choose to base a pan-American crime spree out of a state which is located in the far corner of the country? Genius!

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

      READ ... for the love of all that is holy READ the article .

      August 14, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. HenkV

    All he was doing is collect his fair share. If he did this for the last ten years he was six years ahead of the Ohmama plan! Great role model.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kevin

    Was he born the year of chameleon lizard?

    August 14, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bull

    Well , I wonder if all that was better than just running his own toy store.Guess he really just liked to drive ?

    August 14, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Juan Carlos

    And they would've gotten away with it, if it weren't for those meddling kids...

    Actually, they were one small step away from cleanly doing this.. rather than use the same card (D'OH!!), wander into a store, buy a gift card with cash, and use it a week later. Untraceable and they'd never have been busted. They were smart not to use the same credit card (which would've thrown a huge red flag) and that much cash would've raised eyebrows. Just didn't think it through all the way. I'm sure this story is going to spawn hundreds of copycats.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. MotoJB


    August 14, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. echo

    modern day grinch...

    August 14, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Poncho's raincoat

    Hmm steal your toys he will hmm.

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

    The new social security program for the 21st century.

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


    August 14, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jerry

    Well they had their trips and meals etc paid for by this crime spree. Now they can have their room and board at the Crow Bar Hilton as well. His mom must be proud of him, he's a chip of the old Blockhead!

    August 14, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. s~

    They're just doing the Obama's spread the wealth thing.

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

      They look like typical Southern inbred white trash (ie. the GOP's "base")

      August 14, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Krandal

    These people should be given free housing and health care.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chad

      They didn't steal those things. They had help. - Obama

      August 14, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
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