A South Florida man who was arrested last summer for allegedly stealing more than $2 million in toys from Toys R Us is now claiming that authorities coerced him into making false statements.
While in prison awaiting trial, Ignatius “Michael” Pollara wrote three letters to Circuit Judge Marc Gold about the conspiracy against him, the Orlando Sentinel reports. ”I do believe I’m being held as a ‘conspiracy’ by court or some punishment or someone of high authority is taking a ‘bribe,’” wrote Pollara, 47. “This is not fair and it’s illegal.”
What began last August as an investigation into $900 of missing LEGO sets at Toys R Us in Boynton Beach, Fla. has led officials to discover Pollara’s alleged ongoing toy racket, of which Travis Simpson, an admitted accomplice, was also arrested in connection to the spree. Pollara’s mother, 71, is accused of occasionally acting as a lookout in a series of thefts from Maine to California.
Police have linked the former water filter salesman to a series of reward cards used at 139 Toys R Us stores in 27 states, according to court records, which he used over a period of 200 days. The Tamarac, Fla., resident now faces 10 theft-related charges and more than 30 years in prison. The LEGO loot was found among other toys in Pollara and his mother’s cluttered home.
Pollara’s attorney had his case transferred to Broward County’s Mental Health Court, calling into question his competency to stand trial. His accomplice pleaded no contest to seven charges related to shoplifting earlier this year, agreeing to testify against the alleged LEGO thief and serve three years’ probation. Pollara’s mother pleaded not guilty.
This is not the first theft arrest for Pollara, who has been caught shoplifting and served 18 months in prison for attempting to steal from a Florida Sears in 2004 and a Toys R Us in 2009.
But perhaps the most bizarre twist is Pollara’s world travels, which he says were funded by his thieving. According to Broward Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Rich Rossman, Pollara allegedly said he wanted to personally thank CVS Pharmacy for paying for his 2012 vacation to Hawaii. Police discovered through a series of receipts that he also visited Beijing, Tel Aviv and Prague last year.
This isn’t the first time authorities have discovered an illegal LEGO business. As TIME reported in 2012, a Silicon Valley executive was arrested last year in connection to stealing thousands of dollars worth of LEGO sets. Some sets of the classic colored bricks can cost as much as $130.