BANGOR, Maine — A local man and Toys for Tots volunteer who confessed to stealing donated toys last Christmas pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft Friday and agreed to do community service and pay back the program, which gives toys to underprivileged children.
That is not enough, two organizers of the local Toys for Tots affiliate said outside the courtroom after James Nickerson, 58, of Bangor entered his guilty plea.
“We’re irate it’s been dropped to a misdemeanor,” said Amber Young, who is an assistant and wife to program coordinator Skip Young.
The couple learned just before Nickerson’s court appearance at the Penobscot Judicial Center that he was officially admitting to taking donated toys valued at between $500 and $1,000.
He was indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury in January on charges of theft by unauthorized taking, a Class C felony defined as the theft of something valued at less than $10,000. That charge carries a penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Toys for Tots is a program run by the U.S. Marine Corps to which people donate toys that are distributed to children and families in need during the holiday season.
Nickerson, who served as a local Toys for Tots volunteer for three years, confessed to taking the toys and issued an apology in a Bangor Daily News interview published Dec. 10.
Assistant District Attorney Mike Roberts said the plea agreement would require Nickerson to do 10 hours of community service a week for three months and “pay $1,000 in restitution or donate $1,000 in toys to Toys for Tots” in the next three months.
If Nickerson completes the 120 hours of community service and pays the restitution, he will be fined $1,000 at his sentencing hearing scheduled for January as part of the plea agreement, Roberts said.
Nickerson, who has no criminal history, said in the December news story that “greed” caused him to take the toys.
As a volunteer, Nickerson did toy collection pickups, which provided him access to all the donated toys, Skip Young said.
“He took all the high value” toys and listed them on eBay, he said.
“And anything with a team logo,” Amber Young added.
The Youngs said Bangor police did an inventory of the toys recovered on Dec. 8, 2010, from Nickerson’s Patten Street home, but they did not realize that prosecutors needed additional evidence.
“The missing piece is we needed to prove [that] all toys are from Toys for Tots,” Amber Young said. “We didn’t know they needed those invoices.”
The Youngs said they would spend Friday afternoon digging through their records for donation inventory lists that they say will show Nickerson took toys valued in excess of $1,000.
“If we can prove he actually took more than $1,000, it will be a different story,” Amber Young said.