Polk County ‘Grinch’ who stole family’s Christmas gifts arrested, asked to go to Hillsborough Jail instead


A suspect wanted for stealing a Lakeland family’s Christmas gifts – described as a real-life ‘Grinch’ by the Polk County Sheriff – has been found at a Plant City hotel after his family and friends refused to staying with him due to his “new notoriety” as the sheriff’s office searched him for ten days.

After Raheim Jamaar Johnson, 28, was arrested on Wednesday, he asked to go to Hillsborough County Jail because he was “angry with the Polk County deputies for not stopping to disturb family members, friends and acquaintances to find out where he, Johnson, was,” according to the agency’s press release.

Johnson is accused of breaking into a Lakeland home belonging to a single mother and stealing her television, work laptop and gifts from under the Christmas tree on December 20. The gifts were for her two daughters, aged 8 and 11.

“He’s a Grinch,” Sheriff Grady Judd said the day detectives released surveillance footage of him. “We always have to have one, don’t we? Obviously this guy has eggnog for a brain because we have video of him breaking into this house.”

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Inside Lakeland’s home, cameras were rolling as he walked through the house, officials said. They said he broke down the front door about 15 minutes after the mother left the house. Polk detectives were able to identify Johnson two days later, but were still looking for him.

On Thursday, Johnson was found by the US Marshals’ Service at the Knight’s Inn at 301 South Frontage Road in Plant City.

“He said he was about to have to turn himself in because he was out of money and no one would let him stay with them due to his newfound notoriety because detectives from the sheriff’s office in Polk County were pressuring people to find him and report him,” according to a statement from the agency. “He was upset that he had to rent a motel room because he couldn’t stay with friends or family.”

Provided by Polk County Sheriff’s Office

Officials said he rented the room under a false name. Johnson was not cooperating with detectives.

They were unable to locate the property and gifts stolen from the Lakeland home, but the stolen gifts have since been replaced by Polk Sheriff’s Charities, Inc., Polk County Toys for Tots, and a local businessman. who has not been identified by the deputies.

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Sheriff Judd released the following statement:

“I am very disappointed that Mr Johnson did not tell MPs where the gifts were. I suspect he sold them shortly after they were stolen. I thank the US Marshals Service for having found this Grinch. Right now, he’s in jail.

We will work hard to make sure he is held accountable for stealing a family’s Christmas. I am also very grateful to everyone who provided us with advice on who Johnson was and where he was. Thanks to this advice, we kept him on the run, inconspicuous, and hope he didn’t have the opportunity to rob innocent citizens while we were looking for him.”

Johnson faces multiple charges, including burglary of a house, grand larceny, conspiracy to commit burglary, use of a two-way device and criminal mischief.

He was taken to Polk County Jail.


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