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Hillsborough child welfare employee accused of stealing gift cards meant for foster families

TAMPA — A 23-year-old employee of a child welfare organization has been charged with stealing Walmart gift cards meant for the families of foster children, according to Tampa police.

Management at Hillsborough Kids Inc., 9309 N Florida Ave., started receiving complaints from foster parents that they had received envelopes and notes from the agency without the promised $50 Walmart gift cards on Oct. 21.

When officials checked, they found out that six of the cards that were supposed to be mailed had been used at the New Tampa Walmart.

Unsure if the cards were taken by an employee or postal worker, Hillsborough Kids contacted Tampa police and U.S. postal inspectors in November.

The organization is a child welfare contractor for the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Thirteen gift cards worth $50 each did not make it to the intended foster family, the police report said. Eight of the cards were used at area stores, and five were deactivated before they could be used.

On Jan. 14, police interviewed Hillsborough Kids employee Kristie Feliz Smith of 8611 Tessara Lane and asked if she was responsible for placing the envelopes in the mail, the report said. She said she was one of those people, but denied stealing the cards.

Police showed a surveillance photo of her leaving the New Tampa Walmart on the day someone made $288 in purchases on six of the stolen gift cards, and she acknowledged it was her in the photo, the report said.

She told police that she must have mixed up the Hillsborough Kids cards with the gift cards her mother sent her in the mail.

Police said when they told her the envelopes were sealed in the accounting office and that she would have had to open them to get the cards, Smith told them she reimbursed Hillsborough Kids $400 and should not be charged. Management verified that she had paid them money, police say, but officers still arrested Smith on grand theft charges.

She was released from a Hillsborough County jail Jan. 14 on $2,000 bail.

Hillsborough child welfare employee accused of stealing gift cards meant for foster families 01/19/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 11:13pm]
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