COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Police are asking prosecutors to consider filing criminal charges against a husband and wife accused of utilizing their 10-year-old son in a shoplifting scheme.
Cottonwood Heights Police Sgt. Gary Young summed up the incident in two words: "Bad parenting."
Police were called to Home Depot at 3110 E. Park Center Drive (7040 South) around 4 p.m. Wednesday after a 10-year-old boy was spotted leaving the store with roofing nails and a flashlight by store security.
The boy had been in the store with his parents and two siblings, ages 6 and 3.
"When he was stopped, he stated, 'Oh, my parents are paying for this. I just got to take this out to the car,'" Young said. "They found that it was just a ruse. They were actually just stealing the property."
Police took the parents and the 10-year-old in for questioning and were told the family hatched the scheme since they were low on funds.
"They didn't have the money to buy school supplies so they concocted this shoplifting plan where they would steal property from Home Depot, then return the property for cash and then use that cash to buy school supplies," Young said.
The sergeant estimated the value of the property was less than $100. Though police did refer the case to the Division of Child and Family Services, they did not arrest the parents.
Instead they turned the case over to prosecutors.
"They'll have to answer to their charges in court," Young said, adding that they didn't arrest the parents for the sake of their children, "so that the kids could not be subjected to being yanked from their family, protective custody, foster care, that kind of thing."
Young said the mother has prior retail theft convictions and is facing the possibility of enhanced felony charges due to her history. The father may face misdemeanor theft and contributing to the delinquency of a minor charges.
"I don't believe the (10-year-old) is being charged just by virtue of his parents putting him up to it," Young said. "It's a horrible situation where parents are teaching their children criminal behavior."
Police would not name the suspects until any charges are filed.
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