DALTON, Ga. - Thousands of dollars collected by children in the metro Atlanta area for tornado victims in Tuscaloosa, Ala., never made it to the town.
Instead, a Dalton businessman and his employee went on a shopping spree with more than 50 gift cards they are accused of stealing from their UPS Store, police say.
Edward Copenhaver, 45, and Margaret Carlisle, 26, both of Dalton, were charged with several counts of felony theft on Friday by Alpharetta police, according to police spokesman George Gordon.
Video shows the couple buying clothes and walking out with bags from Target stores in Cleveland, Tenn., and Alpharetta, Ga., Gordon said. The cards were worth between $2,000 and $4,000, he said, but the exact amount was not known.
"It's incomprehensible," he said Tuesday. "I can't even fathom why someone who is a business owner would steal such a small amount of money that was intended for victims of the tornadoes - people who need it so badly."
Copenhaver and Carlisle turned themselves in Friday and have been released on bond, Gordon said.
Copenhaver owned UPS franchises in Dalton and Alpharetta for several years, UPS spokesman Brandon Olson said, and Carlisle was his employee.
In the days after the tornadoes, a Georgia schoolteacher - who police have not named - collected the gift cards from children in her school and church to send to her mother in Tuscaloosa.
Gordon said the woman dropped off the cards May 12 at the store that Copenhaver owns near Alpharetta. Workers told the woman they were too busy to ship the cards but would send them later, according to police.
When her mother had not received the cards, the woman became suspicious, Gordon said. She took a serial number from a card to a local Target store and found it had been used in an Alpharetta Target. The woman then went to police.
Gordon said he is not sure what the relationship is between Copenhaver and Carlisle, but video shows Copenhaver purchasing clothes for Carlisle while she was with him.
About 150 UPS Store franchise owners in the Atlanta metro area responded.
"I was furious," said Andi Govitz, who owns a store near Marietta. "We were all concerned and felt so horrible that the victims weren't receiving the money they needed."
The group got together and, by Tuesday afternoon, had set up a bank account and had pledges from UPS store owners, their corporate office and other businesses.
"We don't know how much the total will be, but it will be quite a bit more than the original amount," Govitz said. "We are hoping to have it in the hands of the tornado victims by sometime next week."