CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — A scam artist posing as a Salvation Army supervisor has made off with two red kettles filled with donations totaling about $800 dollars.
Monday night the Grinch struck at a K-Mart in Cheektowaga and at the Walden Galleria. At the mall, bell-ringer volunteer Jack Sowinski said “The guy said he was from the Salvation Army from Niagara Falls and he said he came to pick up the kettle.”
Cheektowaga police say there is no surveillance video of the thief. Assistant Chief Jim Speyer said “He was an impostor and (this was) obviously a despicable crime for those who need money the most.”
The Salvation Army of Erie County depends on donations this time of year for a quarter of its $5 1/2 million dollar budget. Kettle donations took a big hit in during the November storm.
“We’ve alerted the Salvation Armies in the whole western part of the state and just said somebody’s out to scam you,” said Maj. Thomas Applin, the Army’s local executive director. He urged them to advise workers they should only give the kettles to individuals assigned to receive them.
While the Cheektowaga Police Department is looking for leads, its unions representing officers, lieutenants, and captains are taking some action of their own.
A check for $500 dollars was presented to Applin at police headquarters Tuesday afternoon.
Captains and Lieutenants Association President Lt. Rick Roll said “There’s really no lower crime than stealing charity money at Christmas time, and the Salvation Army has a history of helping people in their time of need, so we thought we could help them in their time of need.”
Cheektowaga Police Club President Det. Don Strozyk, representing the patrolman’s union said “We thought we could do our small part in making up for the difference here.”
Major Appllin was very grateful. “You just don’t expect someone to respond this quickly to this kind of a need. Money lost is money lost. And we’re just very grateful for the generosity,” he said.
Regarding the thief, Applin said “While justice has to be done, we’ll still pray for the individual and hope that somehow, someway, their life can be reclaimed.”