BEDFORD, Pa. - Passersby at this town's courthouse square yesterday saw two women holding signs that read, "I stole from a 9-year-old on her birthday! Don't steal or this could happen to you!"

Tina Griekspoor and her mother, Evelyn Border, agreed to stand with the signs for 41/2 hours to avoid jail time for what Bedford County prosecutors called theft and what the women contended was mostly an innocent mistake.

The two used gift cards that they found in a Wal-Mart store after the child misplaced them.

"I'm just standing out here being humiliated in front of people," Griekspoor said.

"I admit we did make a mistake," said her mother, across the street.

Both agreed to the penance to avoid jail time for theft of lost property.

"I'm not in the financial situation to fight it," said Griekspoor, 35, a food service worker. "I have a family I'm supporting. My husband is laid off."

Border, 56, said she found the gift cards on a box at the store in April. One was for $50, the other for $30.

Prosecutors said the two used the cards and told a store clerk that the cards were theirs, though the girl's name was on them.

The two tried to use the cards a second time, said Assistant District Attorney Travis W. Livengood, who suggested the punishment.

"Such shameful conduct deserves to be met by equally shameful punishment," he said.