Pinellas County Sheriff's detectives say a mixup involving Toys for Tots volunteers led staff at East Lake Fire Rescue to believe that $700 worth of toys were stolen from their drop-off site.
"No toys were stolen. It was actually a volunteer who picked them up," said Pinellas County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Cecilia Barreda.
Staff at East Lake Fire Rescue called the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday morning after a man dressed in a business suit showed up and said he was with Toys for Tots. The man took all of the donated toys with him in a white pickup truck. After the man picked up the toys, a woman from Toys for Tots called East Lake Fire Rescue saying she would be there soon to pick up the toys, which made the staff suspicious.
The staff then called Toys for Tots, who said they do not have anyone matching the man's description out picking up toy donations.
"I got no one out there with a suit on driving a white pickup truck," Pinellas County Toys for Tots Warehouse Coordinator Robin Fancher told Patch.
"It was later confirmed that that person was a volunteer," said Barreda.
Sandy Cassick, who is the corporate donations coordinator for Toys for Tots, says the man who picked up the toys at East Lake Fire Rescue did not show proper identification and was not wearing appropriate clothing.
"We ask them to wear a Toys for Tots shirt," she said.
Cassick says each donation site has a designated Toys for Tots volunteer, who serves as a point of contact and picks up toys at the end of the donation period. The man who picked up the toys from East Lake Fire Rescue was not the designated contact.
He was also driving a white pickup truck, instead of a Penske rental truck, and he never dropped the toys off at the Toys for Tots warehouse, which added to the confusion.
"We have our volunteers use Penske rental trucks," said Cassick.
"The police have thoroughly investigated and the young man will be dropping the toys off tomorrow morning," Cassick told Patch late Wednesday afternoon.
She says the incident will lead to changes next year.
"It'll be something we have to look at next year to fix. We learned a little this year."
East Lake Fire Rescue Office Manager Marianne Wayne says they put a lot of thought into what happened before calling authorities.
"We don't take it lightly to call the police."
Wayne also says the incident also made them realize how kind people can be. The fire station received calls from citizens offering to donate money.