SALT LAKE CITY — On Friday, a Layton military couple was honored with $10,000 worth of free groceries.
The day before, the couple was in a Farmington courtroom facing felony theft charges accusing them of stealing more than $5,000 worth of merchandise from a Layton department store, the Deseret News has since learned.
Nicholas and Stephanie Mannino are each charged in 2nd District Court with a single charge of theft, a second-degree felony. The charges were filed in February but reduced to third-degree felonies in September.
Stephanie Mannino worked as a cashier at the Layton Kohl's store during the time of the alleged theft, according to prosecutors.
On Dec. 21, 2016, a loss prevention employee at the store reported that Nicholas Mannino took items to his wife's register. Stephanie Mannino failed to ring up all the items, or rang up items and then deleted them from the register, the charges state.
Nicholas Mannino then left the department store with merchandise that he didn't pay for, according to the charges.
Police interviewed Stephanie Mannino, who admitted that she and her husband "had been stealing from the Kohl's store since the end of November 2016," the court documents say.
She allowed police into their home where officers recovered more than $5,000 worth of stolen merchandise, according to the charges.
The couple pleaded not guilty to the charges earlier this month.
Contacted Saturday, deputy Davis County attorney Jeff Thompson said he was "concerned" to learn that the couple he is prosecuting had received a year's worth of free groceries.
"Given the specific criminal allegations, I can see why society might have an interest in and be concerned about the circumstances," he said.
The couple's attorney, Paul Remy, declined to comment when he was reached Saturday. The couple did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
On Friday, Operation HomeFront surprised the Manninos by honoring them with a year's worth of free groceries during the grand opening of the WinCo Foods store in South Salt Lake. The gift included more than $10,400 in gift cards from WinCo Foods.
Operation Homefront "assists military families during difficult financial times by providing food assistance, auto and home repair, vision care, travel and transportation, moving assistance, essential home items, and rent-free transitional housing for wounded veterans and their families," according to its website.
Only verified members of Operation Homefront's Hearts of Valor program receive gifts from the organization through a nomination process, Hearts of Valor officials confirmed. Stephanie Mannino is a member of Hearts of Valor, a support program for caregivers of wounded, ill or injured service members, and was nominated for the assistance.
Applying to the program does not typically include a criminal background check, according to the organization's website.
In a statement released Tuesday, Operation Homefront officials said they were "saddened" to learn about the charges.
"We selected this family of eight as they were struggling to get by on a very limited disability income and we felt they would benefit greatly from this basic support made possible through the extraordinary generosity of our long-time partner Eckrich," the statement says.
Because the charges are still pending, officials say they will wait until the case is concluded before determining whether to award the remaining funds in the grocery giveaway.
Thompson commended WinCo Foods and Operation Homefront for their efforts to recognize and honor local veterans and their families.16 comments on this story
"There is humanity in the world. There is good in the world. This program seems to embody it," the prosecutor said.
The program partners with sponsors like the prepared meat brand Eckrich and local grocery stores to honor military families across the nation.
A court docket indicates that Nicholas Mannino on Thursday was "referred to mental health court for screening." A pretrial conference was scheduled for Dec. 7.
Nicholas Mannino received several awards while serving as an infantryman in the U.S. Army for six years. He retired in 2007 as a corporal.