The unhappy Christmastime tale of the theft from the Salvation Army of $2-million worth of donated toys found a silver lining over the weekend, with the recovery of what police termed a “significant” quantity of the estimated 100,000 items.
Shortly after, the former executive director of the organization’s main warehouse in north Toronto surrendered to detectives Monday morning and was charged with multiple offences, including theft, possession of stolen property and breach of trust.
David Rennie, 51, was fired by the Salvation Army last week after it was discovered that over a period of roughly two years, the toys had vanished from – or never reached – the east-end warehouse he supervised, near Victoria Park Avenue and Lawrence Avenue East.
He had been under suspension since September, when a Salvation Army whistleblower alerted the organization to a possible problem and an audit was ordered.
Released on his own recognizance Monday afternoon, Mr. Rennie is to appear in court Jan. 4. He did not return messages seeking comment.
Search warrants were executed at his home, a rented apartment near an upscale section of midtown Yonge Street, and at the Durham Region residence of a second man.
Documents were seized at both addresses.
That second individual, whom police did not name, is an associate of a wholesale company, Northern Sales Group, which has been part of the Salvation Army’s legitimate distribution network.
“We’re making attempts to arrest him,” Detective Sergeant James Gotell said.
Police raided warehouses in Brampton and North York Friday night and Saturday morning and recovered more than 150 skids of the missing toys – enough to fill three tractor-trailers.
Among the items recovered at the North York location, a warehouse at Weston Road and Steeles Avenue, were two bikes donated to the Salvation Army by Premier Dalton McGuinty.
“The volume was beyond our imagination,” an upbeat Detective Robert Strain told reporters.
“We’re alleging the thefts took place under David Rennie’s control, without the permission of the Salvation Army.”
Some of the items – chiefly toys but also other donated goods – were allegedly filched from the Salvation Army’s big warehouse, which served as a distribution hub for 133 other outlets across the province. Others never made it that far, police said.
The investigation is not over and further arrests are anticipated, said Staff-Inspector Tony Riviere, who heads 33 Division.
It was unclear how soon the toys might be returned to their owners.
Salvation Army spokesman Major John Murray hailed the “extraordinary work” of police and said the organization wants “to get them into the hands of the people who need them the most – kids, especially, and on Christmas Day.”
The Northern Sales Group, which operates the North York warehouse, “would receive property from the Salvation Army and they were supposed to store it for them, that was their role,” Det. Sgt. Gotell said.
“And then it [allegedly] went beyond that role....people find loopholes and they abuse them.”
All the same, he said, in his 23 years with Toronto police “I haven’t seen anything like this magnitude before.”
Mr. Rennie surrendered to police an hour or so after phoning in around 8 a.m..
“He called in wondering if police wanted to arrest him and I returned his call and said yes, in fact we did want to arrest him, and he came into 33 Division,” Det. Sgt. Gotell said.