Imposter walks off with hundreds of toys

A person posing as the coordinator of the Western Slope’s Toys for Tots program took hundreds of toys from drop-off sites in Rifle, Glenwood Springs and Basalt days before the presents were to be distributed to needy kids.

Rich Griffin, coordinator of the Western Slope’s U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots nonprofit program, said either one or more than one man used his name when he picked up toys at sites there.

Griffin is the first-year coordinator for the program, and his face may not be recognizable, he said.

Also, some toys that were donated to a Glenwood Springs drop-off site at a furniture store were mistakenly taken to Denver for a Toys for Tots program there, Griffin said.

“I got a tearful call from a woman in Basalt called me asking why I would take their toys to Grand Junction,” Griffin said. “I didn’t. All I can say is he was passing himself off as me.”

The man or men at one location said they were from Denver, and at another location claimed to be from Grand Junction.

Griffin said the heist happened sometime Tuesday, and police have been notified.

Toys were slated to be taken today to a distribution site for Saturday pickup by families who were expecting to put the toys under the tree.

Griffin said he has contacted Toys for Tots headquarters, which may be able to produce some last-minute toys, “but it’s almost too late,” he said.

Checks made out to Toys for Tots and taken to the Army recruiting office at 2502 U.S. Highway 6&50, suite 600C, will go toward providing toys for children down valley. Toy donations are being accepted at drop-off locations at Big O Tires around the Grand Valley, among other local businesses.

“I am mad that somebody thinks this is funny,” Griffin said of the stolen toys. “It’s going to hurt a lot of those kids in the rural communities.”

“People need to know that as ghastly as this is, it’s not going to prevent us from doing our best,” he added. “If we tell folks what happened, I believe they’ll come to our rescue.”

Donations flooded into Mesa County on Wednesday after word spread about the stolen toys.

Griffin said about $5,000 was donated for the local toy drive effort and the Mesa County Workforce Center, reopened its list for families to receive gifts. About 900 families in Mesa County have signed up to receive gifts by Wednesday. Families who would like to receive gifts for their children should call the Mesa County Workforce Center at 248-7560.


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