Travis L. Simpson of Oakland Park, Florida was arrested Saturday after detectives discovered he was an accomplice in the multi-million dollar toy theft scheme that was busted earlier this month, sources indicate. Simpson, 43, was booked into the Broward County Jail on multiple charges, including nearly a dozen counts of grand theft and conspiracy to commit fraud. His bail bond was set at $30,000. It is unclear whether he has retained a private criminal defense lawyer.
Reports say Simpson was a collaborator in the toy theft scheme orchestrated by Michael Pollara and his mother. Detectives put a stop to the alleged theft earlier this month by arresting the pair. The defendants would allegedly visit toy stores and hide expensive toys in boxes of items with a lower price tag – an act later referred to as “box stuffing.” They would then check out and save big on the hidden merchandise. Once they had acquired the stolen toys, Pollara would sell them on online at retailers such as eBay for an illegal profit, reports say. It is unclear how the three distributed the money amongst themselves, but in an overall estimate, an investigator from the Broward Sheriff’s Office says the team made off with millions in revenue.
Detectives arrested Pollara and his mother earlier this month and charged them with multiple counts of grand theft. After interviews with investigators, Pollara allegedly named Simpson as one of the conspirators. It is unclear whether Pollara did this in exchange for a reduced sentence or if he admitted it without incentive.
When police looked into Simpson as a possible accomplice, they allegedly found incriminating surveillance footage taken at some of the retailers. Simpson can allegedly be seen assisting Pollara in the theft, sometimes acting as lookout. In one instance, Simpson was purported to have checked out with a box containing hidden merchandise. Detectives say that Simpson then left the scene with the Pollaras in a Ford Escape.
The trio allegedly carried out this activity for a number of months and affected dozens of retailers throughout the country, including a large number of Toys R Us stores. The toy theft, sources say, stretched across 27 states, including California, New York, and Hawaii. The first break in the case came in May, after an employee from a Toys R Us store in South Florida realized a number of Lego sets had gone missing. When she watched the surveillance video, she reportedly saw Pollara toting the sets around the store. She contacted police, who then launched a two-month investigation that tracked Pollara from store to store, where he and his accomplices – his mother and Simpson – would commit the theft. One key piece of evidence to tracking Pollara, police say, was the Toys R Us rewards card he used for many of his purchases. This left behind a digital trail that led police to each retailer he had purportedly ripped off.
Following his arrest, Pollara reportedly bragged about his success as a toy thief, detailing how he had gone from retailer to retailer stealing millions of dollars’ worth of toys. “He considered it an art,” a detective explained. “The art of stealing.”