Man admits stealing from Toys for Tots, accepts blame

Posted Dec. 09, 2010, at 4:53 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Jim Nickerson says he is not a career criminal. He’s not a monster. He’s not the Grinch who stole Christmas.

He made a big mistake. He’s embarrassed. He’s human.

Before police officially charge Nickerson in connection with the theft of toys from the local Toys for Tots program, he wants to accept blame. He wants to apologize.

“To Skip and Amber Young [organizers of the local Toys for Tots affiliate] and the Tots crew, I know it’s only words, but it comes from my heart and soul. … I’m truly sorry,” Nickerson said Thursday afternoon in an emotional interview at the Bangor Daily News. “To my family, words can’t say how I feel about the mess I have caused for you all. Please remember that this was all my doing, and I hope people don’t judge you by my mistakes.”

Nickerson, a Toys for Tots volunteer for the last three years, said he’s not interested in revisiting what he did or providing additional details about the thefts.

Police launched an investigation after receiving a tip about possible stolen toys, which led them Wednesday to Nickerson’s residence on Patten Street. Detectives discovered and seized several thousand dollars’ worth of gifts that were meant for needy children through the annual holiday program that is run nationally by the U.S. Marine Corps.

“All the items have been returned,” the 57-year-old father and grandfather said. “I am a good person. I have done much more good in my life than bad, especially when it comes to helping people in need.”

So what happened? How did he allow himself to make such a mistake?

“Greed,” Nickerson said. “I’ve always been a hard worker. I was trying to make a buck.”

Asked whether he was facing financial hardships in his life, Nickerson said only that he didn’t want to make any excuses.

He has not been arrested. Bangor Lt. Tim Reid said Thursday that the case still is under investigation but would be presented to the Penobscot County grand jury later this month. Depending on the value of items stolen, which still has not been determined, the crime could be either a Class C or a Class B felony.

An initial background check of Nickerson showed no criminal history.

Nickerson knows that his penalty is coming and that it could be steep. He said he’s prepared to accept it and move on. He said he was especially thankful to Bangor police detectives for treating him and his family with respect.

The community at large may not be as generous with its forgiveness. Online comments on Wednesday’s initial story about the thefts — which did not identify Nickerson by name — were venomous.

Nickerson said he understands that the timing of his mistake did little to help him and he understands the emotional response. He doesn’t want sympathy. Only forgiveness.

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