Police nab trio who stole from Salvation Army
Three men charged with the Grinch-like theft of a Salvation Army Christmas donation canister from the Vineyard Haven Stop and Shop Supermarket have been arrested and the funds repaid.
On December 2, the management at Vineyard Haven's Stop and Shop Supermarket reported a desktop trademark Salvation Army red kettle containing about $200 to $300 in cash was missing from the courtesy counter.
Last week, after identifying suspects from a store surveillance video, Tisbury Police Detective Mark Santon arrested Michael Brymer, 35, of Tisbury, Roy Cavanaugh, 46, of West Tisbury, and Timothy Wey, 28, of Oak Bluffs. All three were arraigned on felony charges of larceny from a building and conspiracy to commit a crime, with pre-trial hearings set for January 9.
The donation canister was recovered, minus the money. However, Judge Joseph Macy ensured that Mr. Brymer, the one of the three who is reported to have ho-ho'd his way out of the store with the bucket under his coat, would make restitution to the Salvation Army in time to do some good for the holidays.
As a condition of his bail, Mr. Brymer was required to deliver a money order for $300 for the Salvation Army to the courthouse within 24 hours of his release - in addition to $500 cash bail.
In a Letter to the Editor in last week's Martha's Vineyard Times, Richard Reinhardsen, chairman of the Salvation Army's Martha's Vineyard Service Unit, appealed to the kettle thieves to return the kettle, so that the organization could continue to raise funds for Island families.
Yesterday, after learning of the three men's arrests, Mr. Reinhardsen said, "It's unfortunate they felt they had to do something like that. I hope they will think better before anything that happens again. If someone is truly in need, they should contact us for assistance."
Mr. Reinhardsen commended Judge Macy's creative solution for replacing the Salvation Army's missing funds as quickly as possible. "It helps us, obviously, because we're an all-volunteer effort, and all of our expenses are met from personal donations of money and donations of goods and supplies," he said.
The Salvation Army's kettle campaign is its largest fundraiser of the year. Funds raised locally, such as the Stop and Shop donations, are earmarked for use on Martha's Vineyard. "This winter we're probably going to be concentrating more on people that need financial assistance for fuel and electricity, and basic necessities," Mr. Reinhardsen said.
According to Detective Santon's police report, the donation canister was stolen on the night of November 29 and not reported missing until December 2, because of confusion about whether someone from Salvation Army had picked it up. The bright red metal bucket had the Salvation Army name and logo on top, and a clasp on the lid secured with a padlock.
Stop and Shop assistant manager Sara Reed said she contacted the Salvation Army office before November 29, about coming by to get the bucket because it was so full that a $20 bill was sticking out of the slot on top, the police report noted.
Although off-duty on the night of November 29, Ms. Reed entered the store shortly before the theft occurred. She said she recognized Mr. Cavanaugh as she walked past him and the other two men standing near the courtesy desk.
When Ms. Reed came in to work the dayshift on Sunday, November 30, she did not see the donation kettle on the courtesy desk. At first she thought Salvation Army volunteers had picked it up, but when she called to check, she found out it was missing.
That led Ms. Reed and Stop and Shop manager Sam Koohy to review the store's surveillance footage, starting with the evening of November 29. Based on what they saw, they called the Tisbury police on December 2.
When they showed the video to Detective Santon, he recognized Mr. Cavanaugh and Mr. Wey, but not Mr. Brymer, as they stood and talked at the courtesy desk. When the clerk turned her back, the video captured the sight of Mr. Brymer slipping the left side of his coat around the Salvation Army bucket and sliding it off the counter.
He then turned toward the security camera and opened his jacket to show the concealed bucket to Mr. Cavanaugh and Mr. Wey, while they all laughed, the police report said.
The arrests of the three resulted from good detective work, timing, and a little serendipity. After viewing the video, Detective Santon showed it to Probation Officer Peter Zona, State Police Sgt. Jeff Stone, State Police Sgt. Neal Maciel, and members of the Tisbury and Oak Bluffs police departments.
They confirmed the identities of Mr. Cavanaugh and Mr. Wey, who are well known to Island police and definitely already on the naughty, not nice, list. Officer Zona, Sgt. Jeff Stone and Oak Bluffs Detective Nicolas Curelli thought the third suspect might possibly be Mr. Brymer.
On December 3, Detective Santon and Sgt. Stone questioned Mr. Brymer, after approaching him on Woodlawn Avenue. He told them he was helping his mother move on November 29, and that he did not associate with Mr. Cavanaugh and Mr. Wey. Based on Mr. Brymer's appearance in the video, the officers were uncertain whether he was the right suspect and moved on.
That same day, Detective Curelli pulled Mr. Wey over for a traffic stop in front of Martha's Vineyard Hospital and alerted Detective Santon, who joined him to ask Mr. Wey a few questions about the theft.
Although he admitted running into Mr. Cavanaugh at the Stop and Shop, Mr. Wey apparently suffered a memory lapse when asked about Mr. Brymer's name and the theft. Detective Santon jogged Mr. Wey's memory with a description of the scene captured on the video, before arresting him and transporting him to jail.
The next day, December 4, Mr. Brymer showed up at the Edgartown Courthouse and told Sgt. Maciel he wanted to talk to Detective Santon. Although Mr. Brymer had denied any association with Mr. Wey, he was discovered speaking with Mr. Wey in the first floor hallway when Detective Santon arrived.
Mr. Brymer agreed to an interview with the detective and Sgt. Maciel, in which he admitted lying about his involvement in the theft the previous day, according to the police report.
"Brymer stated that he entered the Stop and Shop alone and did not plan to take the Salvation Army can," Detective Santon wrote. "Brymer stated that he realized it was a 'bad scumbag move' and that he did it as a prank with his friends standing there, and that he was the one who stole it."
Mr. Brymer also said that he stopped before walking out the door and thought about what he was doing, but then continued out of the store and to his car with the container.
Mr. Brymer told Detective Santon he felt bad his friends got into trouble for something he did. Detective Santon assured him the surveillance video showed all three had a part in the theft, and arrested him in the courthouse.
With Mr. Cavanaugh still at large, Detective Santon met with Clerk Magistrate Liza Williamson on December 5 to file an application for a warrant for his arrest. Looking out the window, she told the detective he wouldn't need it. At that very moment, she saw Mr. Cavanaugh walking into the courthouse. After agreeing to answer some questions, Mr. Cavanaugh was arrested by Detective Santon and taken upstairs to see the judge.
Mr. Wey and Mr. Brymer were arraigned before Judge Joseph Macy on December 4. Judge Macy also set Mr. Wey's bail at $500 cash. Mr. Cavanaugh was arraigned on December 5 before Judge John Julian, who set his bail at $200 cash. The felony charges triggered a violation of Mr. Cavanaugh's parole.
Detective Santon's record of hard work and diligence earned him a commendation for meritorious service from Police Chief John Cashin, speaking at last week's Tisbury selectmen's meeting. Officer Dan Hanavan was recognized at the same time, for his work with Detective Santon in solving an assault and robbery that took place on Vineyard Haven's Main Street on September 30.
"I'm very happy this incident came to the conclusion it did come to - it's certainly evidence of the capability of my officers, and I'm very proud of that," Chief Cashin said yesterday. "It's great to have these individuals brought to the attention of the public and the courts so we know what kind of people are out there and how to better safeguard our property. Our officers do a good job, all of them. I can count on them, and more importantly, so can the community."
The donation canister has not been replaced yet at Stop and Shop.