EAGLE LAKE (FOX 13) - A former Toys for Tots volunteer -- repeatedly labelled a "Grinch" by a jolly Sheriff Grady Judd -- is behind bars after allegedly scamming the charity out of dozens and dozens of toys.
Deputies say they received a tip that Tammy Strickland, 38, had personally kept toys she received from Toys for Tots that were intended for needy children in the Eagle Lake area.
After investigating, detectives determined Strickland submitted a "large number" of applications on behalf of dozens of children -- providing, as part of the process, everything from their names to partial Social Security numbers to the gift each child wished to receive.
But it was all fake, they say. In fact, detectives believe Strickland used 140 fictitious children's names and 28 fictitious adult names.
Deputies set up an undercover sting Monday in which Strickland believed she going to pick up more donations. When she rolled up in her Cadillac, she was arrested.
"This is really not the Grinch," Sheriff Judd said Tuesday, holding up a photo of Dr. Seuss's green-skinned, small-hearted character, then adding Strickland's mug shot next to it. "THIS is the Grinch."
Judd said deputies searched Strickland's home and found 118 unwrapped toys still in their packaging. She now faces dozens of charges, including grand theft, fraud, and providing counterfeit identification.
And there could be more. Detectives are reviewing applications she submitted to Toys for Tots last year as well. They say "several" have already been determined to be fake and more charges are possible.
The sheriff was particularly incensed that Strickland has been receiving government assistance.
"The wonderful people of this state and this nation are paying her so she can steal from the kids. Are you kidding me?" Judd exclaimed. "Come on girl! You drive a Cadillac, you steal toys from kids, and the federal government is giving you $511 a month? Wow."
This year, the sheriff's office says, Toys for Tots helped 8,942 children representing 3,349 families in Polk County alone.
"We're excited that she's in jail," Judd proudly added Tuesday. "It makes my Christmas a happy Christmas and a merry Christmas to know that this Grinch, who was stealing those toys intended for children, is locked up."