Cops: Woman tried to steal 500 toys from charity

SUWANEE -- A Snellville woman tried to bilk the Toys for Tots charity of $5,000 worth of donated toys during a campaign that officials had called the most crucial in recent memory, according to police.

Amber Dowell, 31, is charged with identity fraud and criminal attempt to commit a felony in the failed Dec. 18 ruse, police said.

According to arrest warrants, Dowell purported herself to be associated with West Walton Football and Cheer booster club in an attempt to take 500 toys worth an estimated $5,000 from the Toys for Tots distribution center in Suwanee. She was arrested Saturday.

Toys for Tots spokeswoman Cherrie Carney said officials found that Dowell was no longer associated with the booster group during a screening process.

"No toys were distributed to this individual from our campaign, and the matter was turned over to the authorities," Carney said.

For the fourth year, the Toys for Tots distribution warehouse -- the lifeblood of an operation that covers metro Atlanta -- was located in Suwanee. Officials said in December that more than 800,000 requests for toys had outpaced the group's supply.

Dowell posted $55,400 bond and was released from the Gwinnett County Jail on Saturday. She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Snellville police had arrested Dowell on three felony counts of credit card fraud in November. Details of that case were not available late Tuesday.

The allegations of unscrupulousness aren't a first for the Christmas charity.

A DeKalb County woman drew the ire of philanthropists in 2010 for preying on at least five businesses in Gwinnett, Barrow and Bartow counties by purporting herself as a Toys For Tots worker and collecting donations.

Marsha Lynn Foster eventually pleaded guilty to theft by deception and identity fraud charges related to the Toys for Tots ruse -- crimes that kept her behind bars for 10 months.