Court

Man admits stealing charity box

A store owner and cancer survivor said yesterday she almost cried after a man stole a charity box set up to help sufferers from the disease.

Bernette Forde, of Bargain Hunters Hardware Store in Sandys, said she was “stunned” when she discovered the donation box for cancer charity Pals had been stolen last November.

She said: “I was so upset I nearly cried. I’m a two-time cancer survivor and Pals had helped me when I was sick, so when we opened up our business in July I wanted to give back to Pals.”

Ms Forde added: “If he stole a bag of chips, I would’ve been willing to leave it alone, but, because it was a charity box and it was for a good cause, that meant a lot to me. It kind of hurt my feelings.”

She was speaking after Jean Rouget, 54, pleaded guilty yesterday in Magistrates’ Court to the theft of the box on November 19 last year.

The court heard that Ms Forde, 62, noticed that the donation box was missing when she was opening the store on November 19 last year.

She reviewed CCTV footage and saw that Rouget had come into the store four days earlier and walked out with the box under his shirt.

Ms Forde said: “We had not been in business that long and I was just stunned that this whole thing had happened.”

She contacted police and Rouget was arrested on a few days later.

The court heard that Rouget, from Sandys, told officers: “Yes it was me. There was only $25 in the red charity box.”

Ms Forde said that she had been collecting money for cancer patients and hair loss research since September and planned to donate the proceeds to Pals once the box was full.

She added that in the nine months since the theft the store had made back less than half the amount that was stolen.

Ms Forde said that the box, which cost $30, had been destroyed when Rouget broke into it. She explained that she had contacted PALS soon after the theft to get a more secure box, but had not heard back from them.

Ms Forde added that Rouget had not offered to repay the cash.

She said: “I haven’t gotten anything; not even an apology from him.”

Rouget told the court that he had drug and psychiatric problems.

He added that he went into the store to buy something, but saw the donation box and stole it.

Alan Richards, for the prosecution, said that Rouget had a history of shoplifting, but added that “stealing from a charity takes things to a new level”.

Magistrate Maxanne Anderson ordered a social inquiry report, a mental health assessment and a drug assessment on Rouget.

He was also referred to today’s sitting of the drug treatment court.

Ms Forde said that she was pleased Rouget had been caught, but that she wanted him to get treatment.

She added: “I would have forgotten the whole thing, because I kind of felt sorry for the guy.

“I heard he was on drugs or something, so I even considered not pressing charges, but then I really didn’t know what to do.

“I would suggest people not steal at all, but if you’re going to steal, leave the charity box alone; at least because it’s for a good cause.”

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