Masked man nabs $800 from Girl Scouts

Alleged thief escapes with cookie money in box store parking lot

Posted: Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two 10-year-old girls were left in hysterics after a masked man brazenly stole nearly $800 in cookie sale proceeds from a local Girl Scout troop at Fred Meyer on Sunday night.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

"It's pretty pathetic that someone would steal money from two kids," said Caroline Hassler, the Troop 32 co-leader that witnessed the cookie caper. "I don't know what to say about that. It kind of speaks for itself."

The girls were just about finished with their four-hour shift of selling the cookies when a man in a ski mask and goggles allegedly nabbed a cash box around 5:50 p.m. and fled through the parking lot.

"I was shocked and I couldn't believe that it was happening," Hassler said. "I was really surprised. It happened very, very fast."

Hassler gave chase into the parking lot after witnessing the theft, pleading with onlookers for help.

"I did run out after him and I'm yelling, 'That guy just stole our Girl Scout money. Stop that guy. He just stole our money. Call 911,'" she recalled of the incident.

A Good Samaritan in the parking lot witnessed the thief flee and was able to write down the license plate number of the car he got into.

"It was just really sad because once I got back inside there were two 10-year-olds with me and they were just really stricken and upset," Hassler said. "I mean, it was scary for the kids."

The Juneau Police Department was unable to discuss the incident before press time.

Linda Sylv-ester, program and membership coordinator for the Tongass Alaska Girl Scout Council, said she has never heard of a similar incident involving the annual fundraising event. Last year, someone purchased cookies with a counterfeit $50 bill, and Sylvester said she heard a story of someone using a fraudulent check in Washington.

"Those were the most egregious things that I'd ever heard of, but nobody has robbed a Girl Scout troop," Sylvester said. "That's really bad karma."

Proceeds from the $4 boxes of cookies were intended to go toward funding programs for the regional council as well as Troop 32, which is based at Auke Bay Elementary. Sylvester said the troop just began selling the cookies over the weekend and put in a lot of effort before they were robbed.

"That was just about 200 boxes of cookies that they'd sold," she said.

Hassler said she is grateful for the people that helped Sunday night, adding that people graciously donated money to the troop to help them recoup their losses.

Sylvester said the council has extra cookies they gave to Troop 32 and other troops offered to help sell their cookies for them. Anyone interested in purchasing cookies from Troop 32 can call the regional office at 586-1710, and Sylvester said she will put them in contact with the troop leaders.

Anyone with information on the theft is encouraged to call the Juneau Police Department at 586-0600. Anonymous callers can call Juneau Crime Line at 586-4243 and possibly be eligible for a cash reward, and some cookies.

"If anybody helps us find the culprits we'll give them a case of their favorite Girl Scout cookies," Sylvester said.

This is the second robbery in less than two weeks at the Mendenhall Valley store. On the night of March 1, a masked man described as being 5-feet 6-inches tall, weighing about 130 pounds, reportedly robbed a woman at gunpoint in the same parking lot. The man made off with a purse and a bag containing an undisclosed amount of money.

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