Jodi Lee Wetzel, 48 of Bloomington, is facing charges of theft by deception for allegedly stealing from the WJBC Brotherhood Tree.
By Stephanie Pawlowski
BLOOMINGTON - An arrest has been made in the case of the stolen WJBC Brotherhood Tree presents.
Bloomington Police Spokesman Dave White said Jodi Lee Wetzel, 48 of Bloomington, was arrested Wednesday and taken to the McLean County Jail on a preliminary charge of theft by deception. He said Officer Brent Van Hoveln was working off tips from Brotherhood Tree volunteers, organizers and prior arrest records.
"He had some other volunteers who were able to assist as far as giving a good description of the person that they thought might have been involved," White said. "A couple of other people gave a good description of the vehicle that they thought this person might have been driving and Officer Van Hoveln tracked it down."
The first lead police started with was the first name of Jodi. WJBC Brotherhood Tree Coordinator Janae McGrew said once she had the list of families without presents, she was able to find the volunteer card listing each of those families, and the name of the volunteer who was supposed to have taken those presents. She said the last name on the card was phony, but the first name listed was 'Jodi.'
White says the officer found most of the 220 gifts in Wetzel's home in Bloomington. Some were given away to family members. White said Wetzel told officers she wanted her family to have a good Christmas and wasn't able to provide for them.
The WJBC Brotherhood Tree will get most of the presents back for distribution next year. White said he believes Wetzel was even a recipient of the Brotherhood Tree in previous years.
McGrew said she is working with the long time volunteers to increase security behind the scenes next year. White said stealing from charities happens more than he thinks people believe.
"Whether it's defrauding just by going in and giving a fictitious name, sending numerous family members in to receive the same gifts or the same food baskets, stuff like that, it's still defrauding, you're cheating someone out of it," White said. "We've got all these other victims out there or people that were made victims by this person's act."
Wetzel will appear before a judge Thursday on formal charges.