Man Caught On Camera Stealing From Charity At McDonald's

Posted at 9:23 PM, Aug 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-07 16:48:37-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The search continues for a man caught on camera stealing from a local charity.

Surveillance footage caught the thief at the McDonald’s located at 3470 Lebanon Pike in Hermitage. He didn't  take a wallet or wad of cash. He walked out of the restaurant Sunday with a donation box.

“I think people see that money and they don't associate what it really goes for,” said Diane Bibeault.

The money was meant for the Ronald McDonald house in Nashville. That’s where Diane Bibeault is currently living with her granddaughter while her 2-week-old great-granddaughter Ellie Mae gets treatment in the neonatal ICU.

“A lady in an SUV pulled out in front of her and totaled her car and sent her into labor,” Bibeault said.

Her granddaughter was just six and a half months pregnant at the time. She says it was a miracle Ellie Mae survived. Living an hour and a half away, the family stays at the Ronald McDonald house so mom and baby can still bond.

“Ronald McDonald was on the phone the second she got into the hospital ‘come see us’ (they said). It took a big burden (away from us),” said Bibeault.

The Nashville Ronald McDonald house receives donations from 150 stores with the canisters in the Tennessee area, according to development director Heather Powell. She says thefts like what happened over the weekend are rare because there are security measures in place so someone can’t just pick up a canister and walk away.

According to McDonald’s, the canisters are at every cash register and are connected to sheet metal and wires.

But police believe the thief was armed with wire cutters.

Powell showed off the new playroom currently under construction at the Ronald McDonald house.

“We've had construction teams in here for the last several weeks gutting it down to the drywall,” she said.

It is one of the many projects where the house uses the canister donations, which make up 10 percent of the house’s annual budget. Last year, the Nashville house received $200,000 from local and regional canisters.

So when someone takes the money for themselves?

“It’s very upsetting,” Powell said, “this is a grassroots effort, these are everyday people who are putting in donations. It may be that’s someone’s last quarter in their pocket and they put it in that canister instead of taking it home with them.”

Without the help from the Ronald McDonald House and local doctors Bibeault says she doesn't know what her family would do.

“It's a miracle what they've done to help her,” she said.

The Gray family owns 24 local McDonald’s including the one robbed. They released the following statement:

Ronald McDonald House Charities meet a pressing need in our community. Our guests have been very generous in their support through the canister program, and we are thankful for each and every contribution. We are saddened that someone would attempt to negate the goodwill of our guests. We are working closely with police to see that justice is served in this matter. McDonald’s and the Gray Family will be providing funds to cover this loss.

They said after Sunday’s theft they put the rest of their stores on alert. The store on McGavock near Opry Mills spotted the thief as he tried to run off with one of their canisters. The store owner says his manager ran after the thief and was able to get the canister back before he ran away.

Employees believe the thief was driving a brown Ford Explorer without tags.