12/06/04 — Woman says she did not steal from Toys for Tots

View Archive

Woman says she did not steal from Toys for Tots

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on December 6, 2004 2:22 PM

The woman charged with misdemeanor larceny after taking $700 worth of toys from the Wal-Mart in Goldsboro said it is all a big misunderstanding and she was just doing what she was told.

Kimberly Crawford Riveros, 33, of Dunn says she operates a nonprofit agency from her home called Have-A-Heart Foundation.

She gave this account of what happened:

She said she was preparing food boxes when she received a phone call on Nov. 23 from someone who said he was with Toys for Tots asking her to pick up toys at various locations in eastern North Carolina.

She said she figured it was a legitimate call and agreed to do it. He said they had pickup locations in Clinton, Smithfield and Goldsboro, and since her mother lives and works in Goldsboro, she decided to go there because she was more familiar with the area.

The person who called said he would be in a burgundy van and meet her at the Food Lion in Newton Grove that afternoon. Ms. Riveros went to Wal-Mart on North Spence Avenue where there were two Toys for Tots boxes, one at the store entrance and one at the grocery side entrance, she said. She picked the smaller toys up and placed them in three trash bags.

A Wal-Mart employee asked Ms. Riveros if she was with Toys for Tots and she said she was not. But she also said she told her that her organization was a partner with a business in Wal-Mart, so someone there could verify that she was with a nonprofit group, she said. Ms. Riveros did not have a business card with her.

Ms. Riveros said the Wal-Mart employee did not tell her to leave the store or wait, so she got the toys, walked out of the store and nobody asked her to stop. She took the toys to her vehicle and placed them in the trunk. Ms. Riveros said she did not speed out of the parking lot.

She arrived in Newton Grove, and no one from Toys for Tots was there to meet her. Ms. Riveros said she had to pick up her children from school at 3 p.m., so she figured someone from Toys for Tots would schedule another time for her to deliver the toys. Ms. Riveros said she was staying busy helping a family who had their food stolen and didn't worry about the toys.

She left Nov. 24 to visit her family in Virginia and put the toys in her shed where she stores all of the other donations. She said a woman from the Have-A-Heart Foundation tried to call someone at Toys for Tots and left a message.

She received a call from the Goldsboro Police Department on Nov. 29 about the toys being stolen and she went to the department to explain the situation. The detective on the case was not there, so she spoke with a sergeant.

She later heard about her picture being on the news and returned all of the toys and signed a statement at the police office. She said the sergeant told her not to worry about it, and as far as he was concerned, it would be over with.

She was contacted again on Dec. 3 and told she was going to be 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.

Ms. Riveros said that she just had toys donated and has over three toy drives going on at local schools, which usually net over 1,500 toys every year.

"Why in the world would I stick my neck out for a few toys?" she said.

She said if she needed more, all she would have to do is call Toys for Tots and submit a supplemental request to get more toys.

She said she contacted Toys for Tots' headquarters in Virginia and was told she should not have been charged and that it was a misunderstanding.

Connie Lashmet, who coordinates the Toys for Tots program in Wayne, Sampson and Duplin counties, said she has spoken with Toys for Tots coordinators from all across North Carolina and no one indicated they had called her and authorized her to pick up the toys.

Ms. Lashmet said Ms. Riveros had called the vice president of Toys for Tots in Virginia and said she was trying to help people out at the Toys for Tots at Cherry Point. She also said there is a different account of her visit to Wal-Mart from the police.

"It is just a very suspicious story," said Ms. Lashmet of Ms. Riveros' account.

She said she tried to call Ms. Riveros numerous times, but never got an answer. She said Ms. Riveros has never called her.

Ms. Riveros was convicted in the 1990s in Wayne County for two counts of forgery and one count of passing a forged check and credit card theft. She said she does not deny those convictions, but they are in her past and she feels like the Have-A-Heart Foundation has given her a chance to pay back the community.

"I'm still trying to help people and I'm still going to help people," she said.

Police had given the account that when a Wal-Mart employee asked for a supervisor's assistance when Ms. Riveros had no identification, Ms. Riveros allegedly scooped up the toys and fled.

The toys, which were valued at $702.26, included video-game systems, stuffed animals, movie videos, compact discs, a doll and pen sets.

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.

Ms. Riveros said she never went to Kmart.

Police Chief Tim Bell said the claim that it was just a misunderstanding does not affect the legal process.

He said Investigator Dwayne Dean, who led the police inquiry, probably received the story about what happened from Ms. Riveros and others involved and presented those stories to the magistrate in Wayne County. It was decided there was probable cause for an arrest warrant, and now it is up to the District Court judge, he said.

"It will just have to work its way through the court system," said Bell.