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Toys for Tots for Cash
April 3, 2009 permalink
California foster mother Virginia Kelly, president of the Latino Foster Parents Association, has been arrested for selling toys collected by the US Marines Corps Toys for Tots program. It can be hard to make ends meet on those foster payments.
Woman accused of selling Toys for Tots for personal gain
By Ray Huard (Contact) Union-Tribune Staff Writer, Susan Shroder (Contact) Union-Tribune Staff Writer, 3:39 p.m. April 2, 2009
SAN DIEGO – The president of a foster parents organization is accused of taking thousands of toys from the U.S. Marines Corps Toys for Tots program and selling them for personal profit, the District Attorney's Office said Thursday.
Virginia Kelly, 73, was arrested Wednesday at her San Ysidro home on felony charges of grand theft and embezzlement, said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
Kelly cared for four foster children and was president of the Latino Foster Parents Association, Dumanis said.
She is accused of stealing the toys from the program and then selling them during the last several years at garage sales, Dumanis said.
During the past three months, investigators seized more than 11,000 toys from three locations, including Kelly's home and a Chula Vista storage unit she rented, Dumanis said.
Kelly pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Thursday afternoon during which her attorney adamantly proclaimed her innocence.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Kerry Wells, who did not allow photographs to be taken in the courtroom, ordered Kelly released without bail, saying she was not considered a flight risk and did not represent a threat to the community.
Defense lawyer Tom Matthews said outside the courtroom: “The prosecution is out for blood. This case isn't even a case.”
Matthews said Kelly never sold the toys for her own gain. He said she accumulated the toys faster than she was able to give them away to needy children.
“My client is adamantly, adamantly denying these allegations,” Matthews said. “It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever that at the age of 73, she's going to resort to a life of crime.”
Matthews said Kelly has participated in raising more than 2,000 foster children.
“This seems like a classic case of an extreme rush to prosecute,” he said. “She has dedicated her life to the community for the last 40 years.”
If convicted of the charges, she faces up to four years in prison.
Each year, Toys for Tots officials start collecting new, unwrapped toys in October and then distribute them at Christmas to needy families.
“Stealing from a charity and depriving needy children in San Diego of the chance to get a new toy is despicable,” Dumanis said in a news release. “This criminal investigation has identified someone who brazenly took advantage of the community's goodwill and trust for many years.”
The District Attorney's Office is continuing its investigation into people who may have assisted Kelly by selling toys on her behalf, Dumanis said.
Anyone with information is asked to call (619) 531-4475.
Ray Huard: (619) 593-4953
Susan Shroder: (619) 293-1876
Source: San Diego Union-Tribune