12/05/04 — Woman charged, charity's toys recovered

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Woman charged, charity's toys recovered

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on December 5, 2004 2:07 AM

A new computer system and confidential calls to Goldsboro-Wayne County Crime Stoppers led to Friday's arrest of a woman on a charge of stealing from a Toys for Tots collection box in Goldsboro, police say.

The computer system enabled Goldsboro police to produce photos of the woman and her car that television stations could show to the public. The calls confirmed the woman's identity, police said.

Kimberly Crawford Riveros, 33, of Dunn surrendered to police and was charged with misdemeanor larceny. Her family quickly posted a $1,000 secured bond, and she was released. Her first appearance in District Court is scheduled for Jan. 11.

Police gave this account of what happened:

Ms. Riveros had claimed to be a charity worker Nov. 23 when she went to the Wal-Mart store on North Spence Avenue. She had no identification, and when an employee asked for a supervisor's assistance, Ms. Riveros allegedly scooped up the toys and fled.

The toys included video-game systems, stuffed animals, movie videos, compact discs, a doll and pen sets. Ms. Riveros returned the toys, valued at $702.26. Because the total value was less than $1,000, she could be charged only with a misdemeanor.

Later, police investigated a report of a similar theft from the Kmart store in Goldsboro. But they said the "theft" was actually a misunderstanding among charity workers.

Connie Lashmet, who coordinates the Toys for Tots program in Wayne, Sampson and Duplin counties, said she was overjoyed with the recovery of the toys.

Investigator Dwayne Dean, who led the police inquiry, said he did not know what Ms. Riveros was going to do with the toys. But she said she operated a nonprofit agency from her home, called Have-A-Heart Foundation.

Dean said the crime had captured the public's attention.

"Several other law agencies called and asked us for updates," he said. "There was much outcry from the public about what had happened."

Dean said he felt better because the toys were recovered.

"All will be returned to Toys for Toys and distributed in time for Christmas," he said.

Ms. Lashmet said that when the theft was publicized, the community reacted positively by increasing donations.

"When they saw a bad thing, so many good-hearted people helped out," she said.

Ms. Riveros had said she had been asked by Toys for Tots to pick up the toys, according to Dean. Ms. Lashmet said Ms. Riveros claimed that she was delivering the toys to two men in Newton Grove but the men did not show up and she took them home.

But Ms. Lashmet discounted her story. She said that if the woman had wanted to return the toys, Ms. Lashmet's phone number was on the collection box in Wal-Mart. The call never came.

Ms. Riveros also had been convicted in the 1990s in Wayne County for two counts of forgery and one count of passing a forged check and credit card theft.

The new computer system, called the avid detective system, was bought in the last three or four months. Sgt. David Kelly explained that the system enables police to transfer video evidence in a digital format or on cassettes to a hard drive and then allows detectives to enlarge it and send it out digitally to news organizations.

"It was crucial for us," Kelly said, "to have received the Crime Stoppers information based on the images we provided to the public through the news media."

Police Chief Tim Bell added that "Dwayne Dean and the investigators did an outstanding job on this case; also give credit to citizen involvement and Crime Stoppers."