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Thief Steals Donated Money Meant for Sandy Relief

By Nicholas Rizzi | March 21, 2013 2:10pm

MIDLAND BEACH — Cash donated to buy supplies for a relief center that feeds victims of Hurricane Sandy was stolen when somebody reached through a locked gate and grabbed a collection box, volunteers said.

The thief emptied about $70 from the box and left the container on the ground Wednesday night, volunteers at the Midland Avenue Neighborhood Relief Center said.

“The box was thrown on the floor,” said Aiman Youssef, who organized the relief center days after the storm. “There’s nothing.”

The box was behind a locked gate, but Youssef guessed the thief reached a hand through the gate and into the container to grab the cash.

The money in the bucket was raised to buy cooking fuel, trays and other supplies needed to keep relief efforts going, Youssef said.

The Midland Avenue center has a gate to keep looters away from supplies and food, but they did not think people would steal cash in the donation bucket, said Justin Stone-Diaz, a volunteer.

“We assumed that because we locked the gate, it was safe,” he said.

Stone-Diaz said that if the person asked for help they’d try to give it to them. He decided not to report the theft to police, he said.

“If people asked for money, we’d help,” he said.

After Sandy devastated some beachfront neighborhoods in Staten Island, relief centers like the one on Midland Avenue sprung up almost immediately to give victims hot food, clothing and supplies lost in flood waters.

However, organizers said they have been plagued by thieves and looters since they opened.

In January, two men were busted for allegedly stealing crates of bottled water from a staging area used for relief efforts by the Christian Pentecostal Church.

“This is not just a couple of guys that needed some food," the Rev. John Rocco Carlo, the church's pastor who said his site was hit about six or seven times before the arrest, told DNAinfo.com New York.

"They weren't taking food. They were taking other, non-perishable, things. This is about people who want to sell stuff.”

Youssef said he was shocked when he opened the gate Thursday morning and found the box on the floor.

“We’re doing good things,” he said. “Why is this happening?"