HONOLULU (AP) — Members of a group suspected of hauling items out of a Hawaii toy store who claim they stole the toys as gifts for their children are also suspects in a theft two days prior of two flat-screen televisions, Honolulu police said Thursday.
Five women and a man were seen on surveillance footage carrying out boxes of merchandise on Dec. 1 at a Toys R Us at Windward Mall in Kaneohe. Several of the women contacted an attorney after police released the footage, claiming they're unemployed, single moms who stole for their kids. Four of them surrendered Tuesday and the man is expected to turn himself in on Thursday. A fifth woman is expected to surrender in the coming days.
CrimeStoppers Sgt. Kim Buffett said five in the group are suspects in the Nov. 30 theft of two 40-inch flat-screens from the Wal-Mart store in Kunia. Four women and a man, allegedly the same involved in the Toys R Us theft, were seen "blatantly" and casually walking out of the store with the stolen televisions, Buffett said.
Myles Breiner, the attorney who is representing one of the women and arranged for the five others to get representation, could not immediately be reached Thursday. He has said all the women are down-on-their luck single moms desperate to "meet their kids' expectations." They're remorseful and took the toys to his office, Breiner said, and that he has since turned over to police.
The 24 items Breiner arranged to return represent only some of the stolen goods, which police said has a total value of about $1,500. "That's not even close to half of what was taken," Buffett said. "There's still a lot missing from that inventory."
CrimeStoppers has been flooded with hundreds of tips from other retailers across Oahu and anonymous callers about the group. "This is by far the highest volume of calls we've had for any case since I've been here," said Buffett of her seven years with CrimeStoppers.
Police were looking into the tips and reviewing footage from retailers who claim the group also store from their stores, Buffett said, adding that police have been collecting tips on the group for more than a year.
In addition to the tips, police have been fielding calls from people outraged that the women are using being unemployed, single moms as a defense. "This is one case where we had major outcry," Buffett said. "No matter what your reason for stealing, it's still a crime."