FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Lego’s. Leapfrogs. A Joy of Painting Set. Kitchen accessories, Christmas ornaments and electric toothbrushes.
These are just a few of the toys and other items the Broward Sheriff’s Office say Michael Pollara and his mother, Margaret, stole from stores, including Toys R’ Us, across the country.
Investigators say it is one of the most incredible crimes they have ever seen as the duo is accused of ripping off millions in high priced toys.
“The financial impact of this — just talking to a couple of the retailers — is $4-5 million,” said Sgt. Rich Rossman, of BSO’s Organized Retail Crime Unit.
Rossman said what makes this even more shocking — are the distances Michael Pollara would go to to carry out his crimes.
“He drove 7900 miles,” Rossman said. “He left from Tamarac, drove all the way to North Dakota and back — impacting retailers across the country. Michael traveled the entire country doing this. He was a one man wrecking crew.”
Rossman said Pollara even bragged about his crimes.
“He’s proud of it,” Rossman said. “I go to work at the Sheriff’s Office. He goes to work and steals.”
Here’s how he did the job: investigators say that once inside a store, Pollara emptied a box containing a low priced item then filled it with a more expensive one.
After checking out, detectives say Pollara sold the stuff online and in a couple of years made a million bucks.
BSO calls the crime “box-stuffing.”
BSO says surveillance video from a Broward County store shows Pollara sealing up a box with video games inside while his mother and another accomplice played lookout.
Investigators tell us Pollara called it the art of stealing.
“It was one of his goals to visit all 50 states and commit thefts in all 50 states,” Rossman said. “Which he was very proud of that he did succeed.”
Rossman said Pollara loved to travel. Investigators say his profits from his scheme financed trips around the globe including an upcoming visit to Australia to be followed by a cruise to Russia and China. Friday morning Pollara’s travel plans were on hold as he stood before on a judge and learned he would be held on $300,000 bond.
His mother also stood before Judge John Hurley.
“It says that you obtained the property of Toys R Us — Harry Potter Legos,” Hurley said.
“No,” replied Margaret Pollara.
“Value of $449,” the judge said.
“No, sir,” she said.
However, detectives say she was a willing participant in a con that was no game but a rip off that cost retailers millions.
No one answered the door or the phone at the Pollara’s Tamarac home Friday night.