San Ysidro Woman Denies Role in 'Toys for Tots' Scam - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Ysidro Woman Denies Role in 'Toys for Tots' Scam

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A 73-year-old South Bay foster mother is denying charges that she hoarded and sold toys meant for needy children in the "Toys for Tots" program.

Virginia Prieto Kelly, the president of the Latino Foster Parent Association, is accused of storing more than 11,000 toys in three locations and selling them at garage sales or finding others to sell them for her.

Kelly was arrested and now faces charges of grand theft and embezzlement.

Her disabled foster children have also been taken away from her and she was behind bars until a judge dropped her $100,000 bail and released her on her own recognizance. Her attorney said no crime had been committed and the donated toys had simply accumulated over time.

"She kept many of the toys for herself," Deputy District Attorney Chris Ryan said. "Not only did she keep the toys but she enlisted the help of people to sell the toys."

Ryan said many of the toys came from Toys for Tots and other charities.

"Stealing from a charity and depriving needy children in San Diego of the chance to get a new toy is despicable," said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. "This criminal investigation has identified someone who brazenly took advantage of the community's goodwill and trust for many years."

Defense attorney Tom Matthews painted a vastly different picture of his client's activities. He said Kelly was perhaps the most active volunteer ever in San Diego, whose "humanitarian efforts" garnered national awards.

"The allegation that at age 73 she suddenly turned to criminality is absurd," said Matthews. He added there was no evidence to support the allegations.

After the court hearing, Matthews said organizations like Toys for Tots offer many gifts every year, but many of the recipient groups have restrictions on what they can accept.

The toys found by law enforcement weren't stolen but simply accumulated and there was nowhere to send them, Matthews said.

Kelly adopted two special needs children and has an elderly husband who requires round-the-clock care, he said.

After she was arrested, Child Welfare Services removed the foster children from her home, investigators said.

Ryan did not provide any evidence in court that Kelly had sold any of the toys, but she stuck by her allegation when asked for a response to Matthews' comments.

Judge Kerry Wells ordered Kelly released from jail on her own recognizance and scheduled a readiness conference for May 14.

She faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

The District Attorney's Office is continuing its investigation into those who allegedly assisted Kelly by selling toys on her behalf.


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