-By Seth Daniel
It was Christmas 2009 and many people were hurting financially like never before.
The need for charity Christmas presents was huge.
And, in fact, one couple that was in line to receive some of those charitable gifts admitted last week to having stolen hundreds of them from the First Congregational Church.
Iayania Norwood and Roberto Castro – both of Chelsea and formerly of Revere – admitted this week to stealing more than $1,000 in charitable Christmas presents from the First Congregational Church in 2009.
They were both charged with felonies, larceny of property over $250.
Castro was sentenced to time served (eight months) and had to pay restitution.
Norwood got an 18-month suspended sentence, had to pay restitution and had to write an apology letter.
“Both of them were very remorseful,” said Det. Lynn Romboli, who worked the case diligently. “I think it was a quick, bad decision. I don’t think they went there to do this. They found the door unsecured and opened it and there they were. I don’t think they thought about it ahead of time.”
The crime took place on Dec. 13, 2009, and came too late for the church to raise more money to replace the gifts.
The theft was widely publicized, and it seemed like a lost cause until House Speaker Bob DeLeo, the Revere Fire Union and some private individuals stepped up and replaced the gifts.
Unfortunately, after the gifts were replaced, Norwood and Castro returned and collected more toys from the charitable givers. Romboli said that there wasn’t a lot to go on at the scene, but she found one important clue and also got an anonymous tip.
“They left a clue at the crime scene and I got an anonymous tip that I was able to corroborate,” she said. “That led me to Target where I was able to work with their loss prevention…The clues we found linked them to Target and that was corroborated with the tip. It gave me enough to pull them in.”
She initially was able to get a confession from Norwood.
Since that time, the wheels of justice have been spinning.
She said she couldn’t have done it without the help of Target security, especially David Geary. “Kudos to Target because they did a fantastic job helping put this together,” she said. “They are great to work with.”
Officer Joe Internicola also helped with the initial investigation.
“Naturally, the officer’s assigned to investigate this crime were as appalled as the public, given that the gifts were destined for people who were in unfortunate circumstances,” said Capt. Michael Murphy in a statement. “Through extraordinary vigilance, the suspects were located and prosecuted.”