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Mom charged in children's shoplifting; Amherst police say she encouraged thefts

Adolescents puffing on stolen cigars.

Or perhaps sizzling stolen steaks in a stolen toaster oven.

Those scenarios just didn't add up when Amherst police began investigating three youngsters caught shoplifting at different times and locations.

What did add up was the influence an adult played in the thefts, police said.

Each time the youngsters got busted, the mother was in the vicinity.

Although Teiaya White, of Buffalo, said she had no reason to take her children or anyone else's children out shoplifting, police aren't buying the 33-year-old mother's story. They charged her Thursday with numerous counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

"She was literally taking a bunch of kids out and would wait for them to steal," Amherst Detective Lt. Joseph A. LaCorte said. "I think it is despicable. She's using the system. She knows if the kids get caught, not much will happen to them, and she walks away clean. Hopefully, the courts will take this as seriously as we do."

But the children might not have required much encouragement, according to authorities, who say they have had past brushes with the law.

On at least two occasions, White allegedly accompanied the youngsters when they stole from stores off Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst. Other stores in Erie County are believed to have been targeted as well, police added.

White disputes what police say.

Her son and daughter, she said, stole from the Amherst stores on their own on two occasions and did not receive any encouragement from her.

"I went out shopping, and my son snuck off and went shoplifting. There was no reason for my son to steal a tablet. My kids all have computers in their rooms," she said.

On another occasion, she said, she went out shopping with her friend and their daughters.

"My daughter wanted to go buy something, and she went with my friend's daughter. The two girls went shoplifting on their own. I didn't take kids to shoplift."

Amherst police wonder why youngsters ranging in age from 12 to 14 would steal items generally not associated with youthful thievery.

"There was an electronic tablet, but the other items stolen included steaks, a toaster oven, cigars and a comforter," LaCorte said.

The investigation by Detective Ed Bailey of the Amherst Police Department's Special Victims Unit took a month before White was charged with the misdemeanor child endangerment charges, and the youngsters with misdemeanor petit larceny.

Employed as a cashier, White said she is able to provide for her children and that stealing is unnecessary. "I work, and they don't have to steal," she said.

When asked why police would make these allegations against her, she said, it goes back to the types of stolen items.

"They said to me, 'What makes a young child steal' those things?"

White did not offer an explanation but did defend herself.

"It's not like I'm a mass murderer," she said.

She was released on tickets and is scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday.

Authorities explained that they released her on appearance tickets so that she could care for her children.