Pregnant Woman Loses Custody Of Daughter Over $5 Sandwich

Not too long ago, I wrote about a New York mom accused of shoplifting after neglecting to pay for a half-gallon of milk that she accidentally left in her stroller while tending to her screaming toddler (she’s now banned from the supermarket for life). Now I’m hearing about a pregnant woman in Honolulu who, along with her hubs, was arrested for “stealing” two sandwiches at a local Safeway. Here’s the really crappy part: the couple’s 3-year-old daughter was taken away and placed in state care for a whopping 18 hours.

According to Reuters, Nicole Leczcyzynski was 30-weeks pregnant and famished. “I was feeling faint, dizzy, like I needed to eat something, so we decided to pick up some sandwiches and eat them while we were shopping,” she told local television station KHON. (Name me one mother who hasn’t before pulled such a move – it’s called multitasking.)

Apparently, Leczcyzynski paid for $50 worth of groceries but forgot about the two sandwiches, which cost $5 each. While attempting to leave the store, she and her crew were approached by security; they called police and the couple was promptly charged with theft and arrested, while their daughter was taken into custody by Child Protective Services.

Could you imagine?!

It’s one thing to be arrested – which seems like a major over-reaction on Safeway’s part in the first place – it’s another to lose custody of your child. This poor woman! I can’t imagine how she must have felt sitting a jail cell and wondering how her 3-year-old was faring. I know I’d be losing my mind.

Safeway has since issued a statement: “It appears we may not have handled this matter in the best possible way and we are taking the situation seriously.”

Thanks for comin’ out, Safeway! I’m just happy to hear that the family is reunited. They deserve free groceries for life, in my opinion. Or at least some fresh bread and a selection of cold cuts.

(Photo: Valentyn Volkov/Shutterstock)

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  • Jess

    I find this insane, especially with things like extreme couponing. Also, having worked at a grocery store, why were they not just given the option to pay for what was an obvious mistake?

  • Miles

    Free groceries for life? Really?

    The couple screwed up. It was perhaps an overreaction, but they did steal, intentionally or not.

    • Shawna Cohen

      Okay, so maybe ‘free groceries for life’ is an exaggeration. BUT (and this is a big BUT)…if the authorities took MY child away for any amount of time simply because of an honest, $5-dollar mistake, you better believe I’d cause a big scene. Reuters reported that the mom offered to pay for the sandwiches once she realized her mistake, but by that point it was too late – they had already decided to arrest her (and take her daughter away). Over a sandwich!

    • Miles

      Honestly, I would probably be upset too. Here’s the thing though. I have worked in retail. People steal food ALL the time and if confronted say they “forget” to pay for it. There is a reason stores have policies like this. There have to be consequences. Arresting both parents was (perhaps too) extreme, but I keep seeing stories acting like they were innocent victims whose child was taken away and beaten. They screwed up. The child was taken care of.

  • Sumaira

    So I wonder what happened to the $50 groceries they just purchased. 0-o

  • Catherine

    What I don’t get is why was she eating a sandwich while she was shopping? I’ve had 3 kids and I never stopped and grabbed a sandwich to eat while I was shopping; you eat your groceries after you pay for them. I hate when I see people eating stuff in stores, like they can’t wait till they’re finished shopping, really? I do agree that the store overreacted in having them arrested and having the child taken away though, I think a warning would have been sufficient.

    • Alan

      This is just not a situation that mostreasonable people would find abrasive, especially for an expectant mother who has offered a good explanation and has already demonstrated the ability to pay for food ($50), and offered to pay the outstanding $5. This is really more about the extremely poor judgment of the Safeway manager who did not think about the reputation of the mother or Safeway. A statement on company policy – I would not even consider a warning with the threat consequences to be the right approach. This is a terrible situation for everyone!

  • shanna

    The article I read said that they detained them at the store over 4 hours before police and social services showed up and took the kid into custody and then the cops took the parents to jail. It said they paid 50$ bail each and then were released. Then they picked up their groceries, went home and called social services. It was too late to get their kid so they had to pick her up in the morning. It also said that safeway has a zero tolerance policy and if anything leaves the store not paid for they automatically prosecute no matter what. So does this mean that if my toddler sneaks a piece of candy out of the store and I take it back and try to pay for it that ill be arrested and my child placed into protective custody. If they hadnt intended to pay for the sandwiches they would have thrown the wrappers away and not left them in the cart. Plus they got banned from saeway for one year. I wouldn’t ever go there again if I was them.

  • Sarah

    That 50 dollars worth of good she bought was paid for in wic. Eric doesnt cover sandwiches so the one thing wic doesn’t cover…..they forgot to pay for and not one but 2 sandwiches. She is playing a pregnancy pity card. I don’t believe both dad and mom both ate stuff and b oth forgot to l pay. They are broke and

  • Patrick Warchol

    Bad judgement on the part of the mom and dad. They should have paid for the sandwiches first and then eat them and there would have been no problem. The manager was right because they have to deal with loss prevention on a regular basis and have to make it clear how serious it is.
    The police however were a little harsh and should have given them a warning however, they should have done that, not arrest them.

  • Mel

    Seriously? Pay for your freaking food before you eat it. Common sense.

  • Cheryl C

    As a mother of 5 boys and babysitter to 3 others, I have NEVER given my kids or anyone else with me in the grocery store something to eat while shopping that I haven’t paid for. Not even gum or drink. Here in the South that is called stealing. I don’t know what kind of mommies you hang around but I consider myself an excellent multitasker. I am a RN, college student, homeschooling mom plus all my other mommy duties. It’s not yours until you pay for it. What if you didn’t have enough money to pay for your stuff or you card got declined? Where would you be then? IF you must eat something first, pay and hang on to the reciept while you shop. Use your head, people. Also, Safeway didn’t have any bearing on police procedures.

  • Kate

    At a store, until you pay for something, it doesn’t belong to you. If you consume something that doesn’t belong to you, that’s stealing. It’s not a difficult concept to comprehend. Her situation doesn’t make a difference. Since she has a toddler, wouldn’t she have snacks and drinks on hand anyway? She could have left the store and had a snack outside while her husband shopped. I think people eat in markets and say, “oops, I forgot to pay!” when they’re caught. I have no sympathy for these people.

  • KathyUB40

    This couple’s story is so full of holes and lies .

    Yes – people do forget to pay but when stopped they don’t first deny even taking the items and only offer to pay when cops arrive .

    The state/store did not take their child – they commited a crime and were arrested – the police even waited at the store for hours until Child Services came before taking the couple into custody .

    The judge did not “throw” the case out – Safeway declined to pursue them .
    Length of time in jail was due to fact they could not raise the $50 bail each .

    They were not “customers” of Safeway – they claim the got lost on bus system and ended up at that store so far from their apartment .

    FACT – the $50 purchase was actually made using $40 in WIC vouchers -
    Local news reports carried that info – others on the net choose to omit that fact .

  • colleen

    They get no sympathy from the people in Hawaii so they try to get it from the mainland crowd. Do you really think it was a mistake?

    So the pregnant wife needed food and ate the sandwich. Well, her HUSBAND ate the other one. Between the two of them, don’t you think at least one of them would remember to pay for them? They BOTH forgot about eating them? They probably could still taste the sandwich in their mouths when they left the store.

    What happened to the sandwich wrappers? If they intended on paying for them, wouldn’t they put it in the most obvious place…the shopping cart? You know, because the cashier will need the wrapper to scan that bar code.

    So SHOPLIFTING in front of your child is ok in you book I guess, by the tone of your blog post. Teaching your child that eating something without paying for it is not child endangerment.

    I think they got off easy. They will get no aloha in Hawaii because now everyone knows what kind of people they are.

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  • Courtney

    are you kiddin me? over a damn $5 sandwhich?! wat the hell is Safeway’s problem? i swear those people are just beggin for a damn lawsuit!!!