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. cs

    Multiple states means multiple sentences...and the feds get involved. Sometimes people get off easy. Not going to happen for this guy.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. s~

    the liberal version of Mr & Mrs Santa Clause....lol....

    August 14, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • farleyjc

      Beautiful!!!!

      August 14, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. pmn

    There is awful and makes me sick. I used to work retail when was younger and it is amazing how creative shoplifters get. I caught a few and saw a few bolt to only get away. While the rest of us are trying to make an honest living these two bozos get away with hundreds of thousands of dollars. Crooks like this are contributing factor to our ever growing inflation rate. Do not blame the clerks blame the crooks!

    August 14, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rock

      But they didn't get away....

      August 14, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Cell Block Theta

    "What are you in for?"

    "Stealing Lego."

    August 14, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. chante moore

    They only got away with it for so long because they are white. If a minority brings a box to the counter that has been tampered with it would have been checked. and sometimes not tampered...they didn't get caught because they aren't the ones being followed and watched in stores..it always the minority...but that makes it all the more easy for white folks to be the best thieves and crooks.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • BermudaTriangle

      LOL...here comes the circus of "victims" that just MIGHT have a point if it weren't for so many black people being caught and convicted for retail theft far more often than other races. You remind me of the "poor" Arab guy flying to the US from Afghanistan complaining that his bags were being checked! Get real, your reverse racism is clouding your ability to rationalize.

      August 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • b

      -you should stop,,,you sound jealous.

      August 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Commentator

    They must've considered delivering personally to each ebay customer to travel the 50 states ...... atleast tourism department should honor such patrons. Nevertheless, it was a good dose of humor amid the gloom that news brings these days.

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

    What a pair of lowlifes.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bible Writer

    Their method of operation should not have been published. There are criminals looking for new methods. This news item is free publicity and tutorial for would be thieves. Intelligent thieves can copy this method and use it sparingly. What a bad side effect of the first amendment.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mac

      This isn't exactly a new method. Theives were doing this to me when I worked retail in college 15 years ago.

      August 14, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. TheUberMitch

    Coloreds ain't that cleva'. I'm black. I know.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Amanda

    O merciful God, you are gracious and very compassionately Father please show your mercies to Michael and his mom, please Father please open their eyes to help see to learn right over wrong. Please God show them your mercy I know that you are gracious and all-loving.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • JG

      Dear Satan, please let a bus hit Amanda.......

      August 14, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Oh he'll learn right from wrong when he shows up in Bubba's cell.....

      August 14, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Please Lord don't make them pay for their acts. These are Your children who have only shared joy for thise who could buy cheap the quality tooys Your other children could not buy. That thy tender mercies will let them go free and spread the Good Word to others that they too can make a living without the burden of the sweat of the brow and fair treatment thou doeth demand of tfrom thy other children. Help each of us to know that thou art an ever lasting stream that doth give us space to abuse our fellow man by thy mercy oh graceful one. I HAVE ALREADY FORGIVEN THEM DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO.

      August 14, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tombo$

      lay off the sauce.

      August 14, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • god is great

      god, please help him and his mom get out of jail so they can do it again!!!

      August 14, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Freedom1964

      The special Kool-Aid wil be served shortly.

      August 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Anonymous

    Hell yeah that creepy as all hell old woman and average looking Joe got what they deserved

    August 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Call me harsh but...

    take them out back and shoot them. He is 46 and she is 70, a complete waste to society.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Leslie Ann Warren

    Lmfbao,, Wat Trips Me Out That People On Here Blamin President Obama He Has Nothin 2 Do It w It's The Store Not Hirin Good Enough Security 4 There Stores w There Cheap Rich Self??!! Plus People Sayin They Should Put People That Bought The Toys Frm Ebay In Jail, They Didn't It Stolen Toys 2 Began w Jus Like We Didn't Knw That President Bush Was Corruptin America w Over Due Money Problems w War & Gas, If U Vote In Romney Ryan U Will Be Robbed Worst Than This w More Terrorists Than We Had In 911 That U Will Think That Bin Laden Was Reborn w These Radical Republicans/GOP's/Tea Partiers Jus Lookin 4 Oil & 2 Rich Off The Poor & Kill Middle Class In Poorism??!! I Rather Deal w President Obama 2013 Yes We Can!! =)

    August 14, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      Please do the world a huge favor and never breed.

      August 14, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kix

      Huh?

      August 14, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Freedom1964

    Why does Mel Brooks have that wig on?

    August 14, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Roscoe Chait

    If he was such a good crook, why didn't he pay for the toys with untraceable cash? He got greedy and arrogant like most thieves. What did he get for using the Toys R Us "loyalty/rewards" card? Mileage? Reduced rates at fancy hotels? A free meal at McDonald's? Well, now the card is going to get him a stretch at the Grey Bar Hotel, all expenses paid by the taxpayer. What a deal!

    I think the toy stores should put special seals over the openings on the packages that clerks can readily see if they have been broken. Some retailers use seals that once broken, cannot be repaired or faked. Astounding that they made so much money on this scheme. Hard to believe that nobody noticed them opening packages and switching the toys.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
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