By Tony Thomas
GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. —
Children involved in a Walton County youth football program may be learning more about the justice system than football this off season.
For the second time in three months, the former president of the West Walton Football and Cheerleading Booster Club faces financial theft-related charges.
Amber Dowell bonded out of the Gwinnett County Detention Center Wednesday night.
Gwinnett police accused her of trying to illegally obtain hundreds of toys from the Toys for Tots Campaign last month.
Reports obtained by Channel 2’s Tony Thomas show police believe she went to the charity asking for 1,000 toys which she claimed she would distribute to needy children on behalf of the booster club.
An investigator wrote in one report, “Amber Nicole Dowell was attempting to make a pick-up at the location for over 500 toys which were slated for needy children in the area. Dowell had originally made a reservation for an order of over 1,000 toys.”
Each toy is valued at $10, making the charges felonies.
“It’s a mess. It’s a nightmare, really,” club secretary Crystal Carter said.
Carter said she became suspicious of Dowell and called Gwinnett County police, who set up a sting to watch Dowell when she went to a Toys for Tot’s distribution center.
They took pictures and recorded audio of what they said is Dowell claiming to represent the club and trying to get the toys.
“We had talked about distributing toys for Toys for Tots. A lot smaller number, maybe 10 to 12 families through our park,” Carter said.
She said those plans were dropped after Dowell was arrested in November for allegedly charging thousands of dollars of personal items on a booster club debit card. Dowell was removed as president of the club.
Dowell’s attorney, Mike Pugliese, told Thomas by phone, “She maintains her innocence and asks the community not rush to judgment until all the facts are out.”
A representative with the Toys for Tots campaign said, “During our agency screening process, we realized an individual no longer associated with a distribution agency was trying to receive toys from Toys for Tots. No toys were distributed to this individual from our campaign and the matter was turned over to the authorities for further investigation. The United States Marine Corps Atlanta Toys for Tots Campaign strives to uphold the mission of the Toys for Tots program by ensuring toys are delivered to the children in Atlanta by authorized agencies.”