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Woman accused of stealing toys donated for Holiday Gifts for Kids

Bemidji just might have its own Grinch.

The Bemidji Police Department has arrested Tanya Ann Allen, 30, of Cass Lake, on suspicion of stealing toys from the United Way Holiday Gifts for Kids program.

Upon her arrest, numerous stolen toys were recovered in Allen's residence; they are planned to be returned to the United Way for proper disbursement, according to a press release from the Bemidji Police Department.

Allen remains in the Beltrami County jail pending charges from the Beltrami County Attorney office, the release said.

Bemidji Police began investigating reports on Dec. 17 that toys were being taken without authorization at several Bemidji area stores, including Wal-Mart, L&M Fleet and Pamida, the release said.

Allen somehow had obtained an expired identification badge from the United Way, which hung around her neck on a lanyard, Capt. Bob Lehmann said in a Tuesday interview.

No one questioned Allen, who took the toys on more than one occasion, because she seemed to be a legitimate United Way volunteer or worker, Lehmann said.

He praised the work of Bemidji Police Officer Tabitha Carrigan, who was the investigating officer on the case.

According to the press release, Allen was identified as the suspect after a surveillance tape was obtained from one of the businesses where toys were stolen.

With assistance from the Cass County Sheriff's Office and the Leech Lake Department of Public Safety, Allen was arrested on an outstanding warrant from Beltrami County and on suspicion of theft from the Holiday Gifts for Kids toy boxes, the release said.

The United Way Gifts for Kids program is intended to help parents or guardians who are financially unable to provide a gift for their children at Christmastime.

Gifts were expected to be distributed on Tuesday.