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Police: Mom made son shoplift

A pregnant woman used her 12-year-old son to steal nearly $400 in clothing from a store in Tarpon Springs as three other children waited in a car, police said.

Lawanda D. Bennett remained in the Pinellas County Jail late Friday on charges of grand theft, retail theft and child abuse. She was held $5,525 bail.

Her son was taken to the Juvenile Detention Center on grand theft charges. The other children stayed with their grandmother.

The boy had gone into the Dollar General Store on U.S. 19 North about 5 p.m. Thursday and took two packs of garbage bags, said police Officer Romando Black.

He said the store's manager saw the boy and threatened to call police, but the boy's mother backed her car out of the parking lot so the manager could not copy the license tag. The family then drove across the street to the Family Dollar Store, Black said.

Bennett and her son went into that store, while Black said he began looking for a white Buick. He said he found the car outside the Family Dollar Store.

"The trunk was already opened," he said. "I looked in the trunk, where I saw several items of clothing. It looked like they hadn't been paid for because they still had tags on them."

Black said he walked toward the store as Bennett was leaving. The boy followed behind her, and Black said he detained them until another officer was able to get the store manager from Dollar General to identify them.

In talking to the woman, who was about seven months pregnant, Black said he realized the boy had been coaxed into helping his mother shoplift. from the stores. "She stated that she told her child to go in there and take those items," Black said.

Among the $392.77 in clothing taken were warmup suits, short sets and jackets. Black said he didn't know how the pair were able to take so much clothing.

He said he never determined a motive in the thefts. "I don't know why they were taking it to tell you the truth," he said.