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Police following leads to identify 2 women who stole donation jar

SALT LAKE CITY — Community members are helping a Utah girl raise money for a humanitarian trip to Nicaragua in July after her fundraising efforts suffered a setback.

Laura Carver’s donation jar at Tonyburgers, 613 E. 400 South in Salt Lake City, went missing last Thursday. Police say two young women walked into the restaurant and took a jar full of money by distracting the cashier with an odd request.

"These girls had come in and asked for a Band-Aid, and when the person at the register went to go grab it, they had taken the jar," Carver said.

The two women managed to walk out without anyone noticing until employees, looking to empty the jar that night, reviewed surveillance tape from the restaurant.

"I felt really violated and, I don't know, I felt bad for the girls that they were desperate enough to come in — during the lunch rush and in front of everyone — and take money from people that need more help in Nicaragua," she said.

Carver estimates there was between $150 and $200 in the jar.

Her father, Chris, owns Tonyburgers and helped her place the jars in four different restaurants around the state. When he saw the video, he was heartbroken. "I was afraid to tell her because I knew that she would be really, really disappointed," he said.

In hindsight, he said, they shouldn't have left the tip jars that full. His hope is not only to find out who these two girls are but also to get them the help they need.

"And they're young girls, so I feel like maybe they need help getting back on track, figuring out what they are doing in their lives. Hopefully they really needed the money," he said.

Tonyburgers will still keep the jars out at the four restaurants, but will now display signs reminding customers who the donations are for in hopes that it will prevent this from happening again.

And while they lost some of the money they raised, a GoFundMe account set up to make up for the loss has already raised nearly $1,100 of the $3,000 goal. The Carvers say they are grateful.

This may not be the only donation jar stolen from an establishment in a week. Workers at a Beans and Brew in downtown Salt Lake City are pretty sure the same women took their tip jar Wednesday, the same way. They gave the video to police Thursday and a detective is working the case.

"He's reviewing the video. He'll compare them to see if it's the same suspects,” said Salt Lake police detective Veronica Montoya. “If we do get the same suspects, in both cases we'll go ahead and put that out to your viewers."

Police were following several leads, but had not made any arrests.

Email: jboal@deseretnews.com