Man accused of stealing $22,000 in Christmas gifts for foster children

·       A man suspected of stealing $22,000 worth of Christmas gifts meant for foster children from a Clermont church was arrested Tuesday.

Deondre Pierro-Sharo Brown was arrested in the Lake County Jail in connection with a Dec. 17 burglary at Liberty Baptist Church in Clermont. Brown was already jailed on unrelated charges.

Thieves stole hundreds of toys, bicycles, clothes and gift cards intended for more than 100 foster and adopted children served by the charity. The charity had collected the items during weeks-long donation drives and was planning to distribute them just days before Christmas.

Last week, detectives discovered Brown's fingerprint inside a plastic bag found inside the church, but the 21-year-old from Clermont couldn't truthfully explain how his fingerprint ended up on the bag, authorities said. Church volunteers said they didn't know Brown and had never seen him at the church, according to an arrest affidavit. He is being accused of burglary and second-degree grand theft in addition to other unrelated charges dealing with firearms and stolen property. He is being held at the Lake County Jail on a $32,500 bond.

Lake/Sumter Families president Stephen Wolgamott, said the events turned out to be positive in the end. In just two days following the burglary, new gifts poured in from locals and people living out of state. People donated hundreds of toys, games, bikes and electronics to replace the stolen gifts.

"It was really pretty amazing," he said. "People donated toys and gift cards like you wouldn't believe."

Wolgamott said the group replaced the stolen gifts and even had items left over to help other families in need. He hopes Brown's arrest will help spare others from future crimes and that whoever else was involved with the crime will be apprehended.

"We in our hearts have forgiven him, but the consequences for the crime still exist and justice still needs to happen," he said.

Detectives have not recovered any of the stolen gifts, but are continuing to investigate. They are asking anyone with information regarding this case to contact the Lake County Sheriff's Office at 352-343-2101 or CRIMELINE at 1-800-423-TIPS.