(BOSTON) — Looking for those last-minute Christmas gifts? Why not just steal them. That seems to be the trend of the moment in Massachusetts, with no less than four separate Grinch-like thefts of Christmas gifts and decorations hitting families right before the holidays.
A Lawrence, Mass., mother, 41-year-old Zaida Ramirez, came home to find her apartment vandalized and most of her carefully wrapped Christmas gifts — including Barbie dolls and a pair of coveted sneakers — stolen.
A host of electronics equipment was also taken, including a television and several digital cameras, but it was the theft of the gifts that really broke Ramirez’s heart “I can’t believe it. It’s just like the Grinch. They stole our gifts and we don’t have the money to replace them. I have nothing for my family,” Ramirez told ABC News.
The family is managing to get by on a single salary in this tough economy. Ramirez’s husband works in construction and has seen his hours cut back. After basic expenses there isn’t a lot left over for food, never mind gift-giving, so Ramirez isn’t sure what her kids will open on Christmas Day. “There is nothing left, I just don’t know what we’re going to do.”
But as sad as Ramirez’s story is, coming just days before Christmas, it isn’t unique. Thieves have made off with everything from Christmas lights to those gigantic festive inflatables that dot New England lawns at this time of year.
A father-daughter theft team even got in on the act in Quincy, Mass., where police have charged 58-year-old Michael Ritchie and his daughter, 19-year-old Jennifer Ritchie, with larceny after a neighbor spotted the duo stealing packages .
It turns out that Christmas is the time of year that the criminal mind gets inventive. Thieves have taken to following delivery trucks, like UPS and Federal Express, and grabbing boxes from doorsteps before the intended recipient makes it home, said Quincy Police Captain John Dougan.
In this case, the police report states that Michael Ritchie was found with a set of speakers and a series of CDs. Later police found baby clothes and Hello Kitty items, intended as gifts — inside Jennifer Ritchie’s home.
Federal Express is even warning their drivers to be cautious if they think they are being followed. And with more than 100 million packages being delivered this week alone, that’s a lot of potential boxes for Grinch-wannabes.
A Somerville, Mass., couple was also arrested for stealing more than 100 packages from doorsteps in their neighborhood and in nearby towns. Most of the swiped items seemed intended as gifts, such as fruit baskets, clothing and children’s toys. It seems, though, like the Grinch, even the thieves are feeling badly about their pre-Noel pilfering. Kristen Casey burst into tears after she was arrested and her boyfriend Manuel Sheehan reportedly told police, “I feel like such a scumbag.”
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Steve Visser, CNN
Matt McFarland, CNN
Emanuella Grinberg, CNN