LAWRENCE (CBS) – Surveillance cameras got a good look at the man police say stole a donation jar filled with money for a veteran in need. A Lawrence business raised hundreds for a veteran in Puerto Rico whose home was heavily damaged after hurricanes battered the island. The business owner hopes the video will help track down the thief.

The scene of the crime was the Independent Import Specialists, a car repair shop in Lawrence. Erving Severino has been in business for 16 years. But on Saturday after bringing cars into his shop, it was hit.

Surveillance image of alleged thief in Lawrence (WBZ-TV)

“I didn’t realize that somebody was almost right behind me,” he says. That “somebody” was the guy in the surveillance video who goes up to the counter, and grabs a fundraising container with $800 or $900 in it. That was money Erving was collecting to help a veteran in Puerto Rico.

“It’s a sad moment. It broke my heart because we work so hard trying to help people,” he says. Erving, with the help of the Disabled American Veterans, collected that money to help an elderly Vietnam vet in Puerto Rico that he heard about through a friend. The veteran lost the roof of his house when a hurricane slammed the island several months ago.

But the robber had other ideas. “Just the sign and the flag should tell you something. You have to respect the people that give us freedom,” Erving says.

Erving Severino (WBZ-TV)

Joe DiZoglio from the DAV has a message for the crook. “I would say, gee, I don’t know what your idea was, but this is for people that need help,” says DiZoglio.

When word got out, people started re-filling the container. “I’ve been getting a lot of help from Americans, and I believe I’ve got to give back to America. Americans don’t leave nobody behind. That’s my job and my point,” says Erving.

As the fundraising begins again, they’ve kicked in enough money to bring the veteran to the states later in the month so he can straighten out his benefits. Then the hope is to get him back into his own home by fixing his roof.

Donations can be sent to:
Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 2
PO Box 374
Lawrence, MA 01842


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