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Donated car seats turned in for refund

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OGDEN — Some recipients of car seats distributed in a statewide safety campaign returned them to the store that provided them for a full-price refund.

State and county officials are scrambling to make sure it doesn't happen again.

The Utah and county health departments held the "Summer Seat-a-Thon" May 5-12 to encourage people to buy — and use — safe infant and children's car seats.

As part of the effort, free seat inspections were held around the state. If the seats were unsafe, workers took them and provided a new one. A "suggested donation" of between $20 and $25 was solicited, but Cal Cazier, state coordinator of the Utah Safe Kids Coalition, said nobody left without a new seat because of inability to pay.

Cazier said the seats were provided by Wal-Mart at a substantial discount.

Since then, he said, he has heard that some of the seats were returned to the stores for a full shelf-price refund that could be up to $100.

"I don't know how big a problem it was," he said. "I do know in one area I talked to a Wal-Mart manager, and he said about 30 people came in and did that."

He said that when one highway patrolman involved in the program in central Utah heard of people doing that, "he'd call them up and chew the heck out of them."

Cazier said more than 1,400 seats were checked and between 700 to 900 new ones were distributed.

He said he is concerned not only about the fraud, but what sort of car seat the children are in if the new one has been returned to the store.

Plus, he doesn't want Wal-Mart getting taken in the deal.

"The thing I feel bad about is I hope Wal-Mart did not get burned on this. They were so gracious to us and sold them to us at a discount price," he said.

He is investigating ways of marking the seats in the future to make sure they can't be returned.