RO Lite: the Pollaras

Okay, they didn’t commit murder or rape or assault. But I’m pitting them for the sheer stupidity of their crime spree.

Margaret Pollara is apparently not a good mother. First, she named her son Ignatius (although he goes by Michael). Second, she raised him to be a criminal.

They shoplift toys from Toys-R-Us. They steal toys and then sell them on eBay for money. They would find some big cheap item in the store that came in a box, open the box and remove the real item, load the box up with small and expensive items, reseal the box, and then buy it at the box’s sticker price. In this way they were able to steal an estimated two million dollars worth of merchandise and only pay less than seven thousand dollars.

Pathetic as this might seem, Michael Pollara takes pride in his “work”. So he set himself a goal: he and his mom were going to steal from a Toys-R-Us in all fifty states within a single year. And being as they were spending a lot of time in Toys-R-Us, he got himself a rewards card and collected points on the seven thousand dollars he actually spent.

This was his downfall (okay, being born was probably his downfall but this was how he got caught). Toys-R-Us noticed that it was losing a few million dollars worth of merchandise but being as these losses were spread out over 139 stores in 27 different states, they probably wouldn’t normally have connected them together. But thanks to his reward card records, they could show that Pollara had been in all the stores that had been robbed at the time of the thefts.

My guess? With his themed crimes and propensity for leaving clues, I’m guessing Pollara was trying to attract the attention of Batman.


I gotta admit thats a pretty damn impressive ratio of 2000 to 7.

How did workers not notice giant box containing crap was being opened and reloaded with gold bars?

I wonder how long he could have gotten away with it if he hadn’t wanted that little extra from the rewards card.

And this guy, and people like him, are the reason why we have to have RFIDs and merchandise that’s impossible to remove from the packaging.

This story has some major holes for me.

I’d have to question the 2 million dollar figure. That seems absurd. I sell only a tiny fraction of amount and it’s still a big time sink. Plus selling that amount of crap on eBay, weighing, boxing and shipping while moving state to state?

What the hell were they stealing Toys R Us bullion bars?

I haven’t stepped foot in one in probably 20 years, but they sell laptops and iPads there these days right? Even packing a box with a bunch of Playstations or XBoxes should yield a quick few $k’s on the internet, and new-in-box brand name electronics can be sold for pretty damn close to full retail. Toys R Us is probably perfect for this particular crime since they sell all sorts of bulky cheap crap but also pricey electronics and they often have hundreds of screaming little distractions running around.

(I actually haven’t laid eyes on a Toys R Us for probably 10 years and was all set to post “Ha! They’re going to have to wait until they build one in my state!” but turns out they do seem to have 'em in all 50 states, including Wyoming and both Dakotas!)

This article has more detail:

The stolen items were Lego Mindstorms kits retailing for 300 USD, he would place two inside a Duplo blocks box which cost 50 USD. This is not the first time those high priced Lego kits have been targeted by pro retail thieves in an article, you’d think the stores would just put the damn things under lock and key already like they do videogames. It also mentions a stolen Mickey Mouse computer game.

Strangely it says he HAS been arrested several times for shoplifting over the years, it also says that he not only traveled the USA stealing but also traveled internationally stealing as well but got nervous. This is…odd, this guy was selling the stolen merch on ebay so how could he do that from a foreign country? Where was he staying during his cross country steal sprees, I find it too cutesy for a pro thief to want to steal from a store in all fifty states.

Oh and apparently Hawaii is a foreign country, they even stamp your US passport when you enter the Republic of Hawaii!

Birthers just got more “evidence”.

Or they could make Lego cheaper (grumble grumble 7-year-old son grumble grumble second mortgage).

It wasn’t the rewards card that did him in, but the store’s target demographic: children. They’re too young to have a good grasp of manners, and, particularly in a toy store, want to see what’s in your cart, see what you’re doing, etc. It’s basic child rearing 101: if something is occupying your attention, they’re going to want to be involved. Hence:

He could have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids!

OK. So then the $2M to $7,000 numbers cited are obviously pulled out of someone’s ass then, right? Or am I missing some kind of obscure math that makes this work out?

I have never sold anything on Ebay. Would that amount of money attract any attention? And does the IRS pay any notice to such transactions?

Ebay says the IRS requires a tax ID for the seller if you sell more than $ 20,000 or 200 items annually under a single account. Unless you are establishing, using and maintaining hundreds of separate accounts pushing 1-2 million in sales through an account would definitely definitely get the IRS’ attention.

Plus think of the WORK involved. Usually you have to sell stuff at around half retail to be competitive. Assume (generously) he got 100 $ 200 each on average for the Mindstorm kits that’s 10,000 to 20,000 sales he has to process (list sell pack ship) annually or 30 - 60 sales a day. That’s more than a full time job.

I can see if he made a few hundred thousand doing this if he was working it *hard *h but the 2 million figure is asinine.

The 2M figure is “sold at store prices with no discount whatsoever, and rounded up” - at the very least. It’s the same when the cops catch anybody with contraband, the value they give isn’t anywhere near what the peps would have gotten for it.

Oh, no doubt. By we’re talking more than a degree of magnitude here. If, on average, they spend $50 for their stolen goods, and bought $7000 worth of them, that’s 140 units, in my base 10 number system. To gross $2M on that, that means they’d have to sell each at a bit north of $14K. On something that retails for $300, I just don’t see what kind of math makes that work.

Sing it, Dino!

Pollaras, oh oh
Toys 'R Us, oh oh oh oh

According to one of the articles, he had at least two online accounts. He had collected $203,758 on one and $706,118 on the other. If he was able to sell the stolen merchandise online for $909,876, it’s easy to believe its original store value was around two million. The $6,737.94 was from his Toy-R-Us rewards card.

I wonder if the Pollaras spoke Polari.

The 7K was on the cheap big box items he bought at retail . Each of these boxes was emptied and stuffed with bunches of high priced Lego kits then resealed.

The (supposed) thousands (tens of thousands) of Lego kits hidden inside the boxes are what he sold online.

I’m still stunned he could get away with this at store after store. Seems like this would be something *somebody *would notice in hundreds of shipping trips. I can’t say i think much of Toys R Us security at this point?

If this is true that’s thousands and thousands of sales he had to list, sell and process. He’s not a lazy criminal.

Well, at least his Mom impressed a work ethic on him.

The Legos were given as one example of an item he stole. The same article also mentioned a computer game. So we can assume there was a variety of stolen merchandise.