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. Tom Smith

    What's the problem?

    They should be rewarded for their great entrepreneurship isn't this what American capitalism is all about? Now they don't have to pay Taxes either like Romney!

    August 14, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • GREEDY

      They shoulda quit while they were ahead

      August 14, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bobber

    Well CNN, you just again laid out the best way to rip off stores for copycats. It's like printing print out how to make a bomb or crystal Meth. Your reporting is too deep and adding "cool facts" that are not necessary and damaging to someone else.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Robert

    It's all George Bush's fault. (Just kidding. Actually, I'm a Republican who has heard this so many times from Democrats that their blame shifting for everything from the economy to Obama's constipation has become extremely comical.)

    August 14, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom Smith

      AND you still want Obamas birth certificate and college transcripts...Huh?!

      August 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bobby Bankston

    This is actually the same premise that Obamacare is founded upon. Expensive insurance at a cheap price, and the taxpayer is the toy store.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. dubrats

    they did this for 10 years and she still never got her hair done?......yikes.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mary

    The clerks at stores in 50 states failed to either observe them switching product or check the boxes ?
    Sounds like the stores need some SERIOUS clerk training !

    August 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • pmn

      @Mary..the only finger you should be pointing at is the crooks above. If you have a resealed box or even half open who would think to look in the box. I know most people remove the tape to look at the merchandise. Who would think in a toy store? Even if they saw the cheaper merchandise laying around without the box would think kids and parents opened it up. it is amazing the managers did not catch on. However, since they move from store to store it would be one occorence. See what I mean?

      August 14, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Slappy_McGiggles

    I can't believe they did this for 10 years before getting caught.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Amanda

    Michael and his mother need to repent. Michael needs to stop stealing it is a sin to steal. May God have mercy on Michael and his mother Margaret. Stealing is bad and it is the work of the devil. May God have mercy on these 2 lost sinners and the Lord is merciful and gracious full of compassion and abounding in mercy. Please God have mercy on them.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. weezer

    Is it just me, or does everybody think that if this guy put that much time, effort, and ingenuity into this he probably could have had just as successful of a legitimate on-line business?

    August 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dale

    Big apartment stores like Wal-mart, target , Kmart, big clothing stores, home improvement stores, and small mom and pop businesses they lose hundreds of thousands of dollars to shoplifters each year,These stores that lose all of this merchandise they write it off on their taxes each year, who are the losers we the people are the losers.

    ""Stolen merchandise is the same as a sale to businesses"", If the stores did not have the opportunity to write it off on their taxes,"" counselling that taxpayer sale "", the stores would put a stop to shoplifting.

    Wake up America we need tax reform now, write to your congressman and senators and "" complain how businesses are ripping you off letting people shoplift "", to make a sale off of the taxpayer, You.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Zully

    Ugh...stupid criminals!

    August 14, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Denise

    I'm sure they could have made more money modeling! LOL

    August 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. peckbag

    Just a microcosm of the GOP plan for the middle class...

    August 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Siggie

    Why is Gene Simmons' picture next to the guy with the mustache?

    August 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    He's the son of a mother, that's all I'm gonna say.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
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