UPDATE: Snellville Woman Arrested in Attempted Toys for Tots Scam
UPDATE: Amber Nicole Dowell, was booked into the Gwinnett County Detention Center at 12:32 p.m. Wednesday. The former president of the West Walton Football and Cheerleading Booster Club in Loganville, faces several charges.
UPDATE: Amber Nicole Dowell was booked into the Gwinnett County Detention Center at 12:32 p.m. Wednesday charged with financial identity fraud and criminal attempt to commit a crime. Each charge carries a $27,700 bond. She was released on bond at 2:36 p.m.
Amber Nicole Dowell, 31, of Snellville, was expected to turn herself in to Gwinnett County Police Wednesday on charges relating to a fraudulent attempt to obtain toys from the Buford distribution center of Toys for Tots in December.
Dowell had lost her position as president of the West Walton Park Football and Cheerleading Booster Club in November after she was charged with several charges of credit card fraud connected to funds missing from the club. She is accused of passing herself off as still being a representative of the club in an attempt to obtain $5,000 worth of toys from Toys for Tots.
Crystal Carter, secretary and the only remaining member of the booster club, was the person who alerted the U.S. Marine Corp to the potential fraud. Carter was also the person who discovered the original theft from the booster club and reported it to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.
“We had talked about maybe applying for toys for some of the kids at the club before her arrest, but we were only looking at about 10 or 15,” Carter said. “After finding out about the other theft, I got to thinking about it and alerted the Tots for Tots program.”
Gwinnett County detectives later contacted Carter to verify that Dowell indeed was no longer a member of the booster club. According to Investigator B.T. Towley of the GCPD, a sting was set up following an alert from the U.S. Marine Corp Toys for Tots program. Towley said when detectives learned that Dowell was attempting to pick up 500 toys under the guise of being an official representative of the West Walton Football and Cheerleading Booster Club, she was allowed to attempt the pickup. Documentation was completed and photos were taken of Dowell during the attempt. She did not get to leave with the toys, however. Towley said Dowell had originally asked for 1,000 toys, but due to heavy demand and low contributions in 2011, only 500 had been allocated.
"The appraised value was approximately $10.00 per toy, making the total value of toys Dowell was scheduled to pick up worth in excess of $5000.00. Early proactive efforts by Toys for Tots resulted in saving the toys from being distributed to an unauthorized recipient and allowed them to be given to actual needy children during the holidays," Towley wrote in a synopsis of the case.
Carter said she was told that this was not the first time Dowell had picked up from Toys for Tots in the name of the West Walton booster club, but nobody connected with the club had any knowledge of it or what had become of the toys in those instances.
Dowell is facing charges of criminal attempt and financial identity fraud in this case, on top the charges she is already facing in connection to the alleged theft from the booster club. She was out on bond of $5,700 on each of three charges in connection with the earlier theft at the time of the Toys for Tots attempted scam.
By noon on Wednesday, Dowell had not been checked into Gwinnett County Detention Center.