NAPLES, Fla. - A 49-year-old Salvation Army bell ringer was arrested Saturday after authorities say he stole about $600 from his and a colleague's kettles.
Kevin L. Dinger told police he had been instructed Friday evening over the phone by a supervisor to swap his empty kettle for a fellow Salvation Army employee's three-quarters-full kettle, the Naples Police Department reported.
But when an officer checked his phone, there was no such call in his call log, and another supervisor said it isn't Salvation Army procedure to change kettles like that. Dinger now faces grand theft charges.
"Dinger used his position as an employee of the Salvation Army to steal the donations provided by honest citizens looking to assist a charitable cause," the police department said. "Dinger knew the system for switching kettles and used it to his advantage to facilitate his criminal enterprise."
Officials believe Dinger had skimmed money from his own kettle every day. Then at around 7:45 p.m. Friday, he drove to the Publix at 1981 Ninth St. N. and exchanged his empty bucket with the full one, telling the bell ringer there that he had instructions to trade. She watched him hop in a car and drive off.
The other bell ringer thought it was strange and called her boss.
Authorities caught up with Dinger near a store at Coastland Center mall, where Dinger was stationed as a kettle collector, and reported that Dinger had been riding his bicycle away from the scene.
Dinger, of the 3400 block of Dorado Way, has a previous grand theft conviction in Collier County.
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