About Help Victim of Carjacking and Theft

Laptops, iPads, cash ready to be deposited and a trailer full of fireworks are among the items still missing after the founder of a local nonprofit was robbed July 3 while setting up the Relief Inc.'s fireworks stand.

Relief, Inc., founder Phebe Dennis-Fortt said she estimates more than $60,000 worth of property was taken when a man and woman stole her 2006 Lexus SUV and a trailer full of fireworks. She said the man attacked her leading up to the theft, fracturing her wrist and injuring her shoulder in the process.

The fireworks stand was being used to raise money for Relief, Inc., which focuses on providing for local and global communities, including feeding homeless populations around the Modesto area and supporting Dennis-Fortt’s home country of Liberia.

“Since COVID, that’s the only income we have, we don’t have anybody donating money to us and stuff like that,” Dennis-Fortt said. “It means a lot to us to be able to have that booth running.”

Dennis-Fortt said she had arrived around 8:50 a.m. at the fireworks stand, near the corner of Prescott Road and Plaza Way, to begin setup for the day. She hooked up a generator and took a few items, including her purse and a cash box, into the booth.

As she unloaded her SUV, a woman stopped Dennis-Fortt and asked what time the booth opened. When Dennis-Fortt told her it wouldn’t open until 10 a.m., the woman walked away and pulled her vehicle into a parking spot.
She was able to turn around when a white male in a black hooded jacket attacked her. She said she was primarily focused on finding something to use as a weapon to stop the attack and didn’t realize he was going after the SUV keys she was holding.
“I fought him until he got the keys out of my hand,” Dennis-Fortt said.

After the man grabbed the SUV keys, he jumped into the driver’s seat and took off, Dennis-Fortt said. The woman who had parked near the stand drove off with him. Only the Lexus has been since recovered in the Oakland area. Their personalized license plates, which said FORTT 1, had been taken off the vehicle.

They are not sure when the SUV will be returned to them since it needs to be processed for fingerprints and other possible evidence. No other items have been recovered. Relief, Inc. is a non-profit organization and would appreciate any donations to help recover from this crime.

Update: Another restless night. I got a call from Phantom Fireworks for an update on the July 3rd Assault and Battery Fireworks Carjacking at the Fireworks Booth in the Four Season Parking Lot at 1773 Prescott Rd. Modesto, CA. During that conversation, I found out Phantom Insurance does not cover their fireworks. As a small nonprofit serving people in need, where will we get Sixty thousand dollars to pay Phantom?