AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – It might be a Merry Christmas for thousands of CSRA children, but the woman who helped pull it off has a court date after the holidays for a felony indictment. The Marine Toys for Tots is a staple for many this time of year, but the Evans woman trusted with running the operation locally has a past that landed her in jail as recent as a year ago with an upcoming trial.
NewsChannel 6 stopped by the 15th Street warehouse to get an update on donation efforts two and a half weeks before Christmas.
“I’m almost, probably about 80 percent covered,” she told us.
While around 350 donated SRS bicycles for boys and girls in need rolled into the local Marine Toys for Tots warehouse, the coordinator, Grace Anderson calculated what the organization still needs to pull off Christmas after low donations and a burglary put that in jeopardy.
“We still need a little bit more help with the Bear of Hope, which is the individual families who want special gifts,” she said sharing a press release from SRS, which states the employees contributed more than 10,000 toys and more than $17,500 in donations for gifts. The money and gifts come after what Anderson calls a year of low donations and an October 20 burglary at the former warehouse in the old Winn-Dixie on Gordon Highway. The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident.
NewsChannel 6 watched as four trucks loaded with those toys filled a once empty room. Anderson even went shopping with $6,000 at Academy Sports in Evans Wednesday, thanks to a $5,000 Bobby Bones donation and a $1,000 Academy Sports donation. She told us she plans to shop Friday with a $41,000 donation from Augusta Building Trades at Toys R US. But the volunteer, who said her time with the organization spans 20 years has a questionable past.
NewsChannel 6’s Renetta DuBose asked her, “In Columbia County you have an open investigation.”
Anderson interrupted, “I can not comment on that because I have a lawyer so I can not talk about that.”
She can’t, but NewsChannel 6 can. We uncovered the Evans homeowner was arrested last August and indicted for identity fraud last November when she allegedly falsified an old Columbia County jury summons. The District Attorney’s Office told us that trial will be in January 2018.
“Not true. Not true. It will all be revealed in time,” Anderson said.
We asked, “What would you say to those individuals who would look at these cases and say she’s not capable of running Toys for Tots?”
“That’s incorrect,” Anderson said. “I know the Father that I serve. So I know that I’m higher than anything that anybody can ever say about me.”
NewsChannel 6 obtained another arrest from January 2009 where Anderson was accused being in possession of and selling forged articles and counterfeit merchandise. The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office began investigating Anderson after an anonymous phone call that she was selling the illegal goods. The report states it happened in December 2008. An investigator visited Anderson’s Evans home and purchased Louis Vuitton earrings for $10. The report states an authentic pair of the same earrings would have been valued at $20,000. Anderson promised more to the purchaser after a UPS delivery on a later date. Later, a search warrant was issued for Anderson’s Evans home. Financial records and receipts from counterfeit merchandise sold by Anderson, according to the report, totaled $190,000 had it been sold in a store. Investigators also found several documents pertaining to purse parties and bank accounts where Anderson conducted business in the name of those purse parties.
We presented the information to Anderson after learning she completed a first time offender act for the crime.
“It says you paid a fine and there was probation, is that you?”
“Nope. Nope,” she said denying paying the $472.50 fine and serving10 days probation.
“This is not you?”
“No,” she stressed.
We added, “What about the mug shots? It looks like you.”
“I don’t care what the mugshot says. Do they always come back and say that they have lied. The press, the media or the news never comes back and say they got the wrong information,” she exclaimed.
We added, “So you’re not guilty?”
She replied, “No, I’m not guilty, but I thank you for asking.”
We reached out to the Toys for Tots Foundation to verify that Anderson’s position is a volunteer position. Lieutenant Colonel David Cooper, USMC (Ret), who is the Deputy Vice President of Operations for the Foundation responded, “Thank you for contacting the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. All Toys for Tots coordinators are either U.S. Marines or volunteers. A Marine receives no additional compensation for being a Toys for Tots coordinator and none of the volunteers are paid for their Toys for Tots work.”
We will have more questions for the Foundation as to the hiring of a volunteer with an open criminal investigation and a past criminal case. Count on NewsChannel 6 to keep you updated.
Photojournalist: Mark Gaskins