Thief Steals $1K in Girl Scout Cookie Money from Kids at N.J. Mall
Parents in Middlesex County took to social media over the weekend to find a thief who snatched more than $1,100 from a group of New Jersey Girl Scouts selling cookies at Woodbridge Center mall on Friday afternoon, leaving the heartbroken kids without a long-awaited trip for the troop.
“Girl Scout Troop 80062 was blindsided and robbed of our money,” 38-year-old Jessica Medina, the Girl Scout group’s troop leader, wrote on Facebook. “Please Help. Any information would be greatly appreciated.”
According to the police, the incident occurred between 4:20 p.m. and 4:50 p.m. on the upper level of Woodbridge Center mall on Friday.
The troop had set up their cookie table on the upper level of the mall, near a Chick-fil-A, hoping to raise money for a summer trip to Savannah, Georgia, where the Girl Scouts headquarters is located.
All the stolen money was stored in a bank envelope that was on the sales table of the group that includes girls aged 5 to 12.
The thief, who was with an older woman using a red walker and seemed to be handicapped himself, struck at about 4:40 p.m., as Medina – whose daughters Oliviya and Aryanna are in the troop – was about to take the proceeds from their sales of Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos, and Samoas to the bank.
According to the woman, the thief first asked to buy a box of Caramel de Lites and some Peanut Butter Patties, but then, as Medina set the cash envelope containing $500 and some checks down on the table to help Olivia with the transaction, he snatched it all “in the blink of an eye.”
11-year-old Olivia Limmer added, “I didn’t see him take the money but I saw he nudged the woman to say, ‘Let’s go.’”
The thief and the woman he was with fled quickly after swiping the money, said sources from the troop.
“I was on my way out, and I said, ‘Did I drop it? Where did it go?’” the troop leader recalled when she realized the money had been stolen.
At first, she didn’t suspect that the man, who was tall with shaggy hair, had stolen it because he “appeared to be special needs,” she said.
“He was rocking back and forth and slurring,” Medina said. “Police told us it was probably an act.”
And it was clear from camera footage that the man’s behavior was indeed a cunning ruse.
“Judging from the security tape he had his eyes on the envelope the entire time . . . I think [he] was pretending to be special needs so people wouldn’t stare at him,” Olivia said, adding that people averted their eyes.
“This makes me so angry,” Michelle Lass Parrinello, whose daughter is in the troop, wrote on Facebook. “I hope these people are found. What is wrong with people?”
How broke and cruel you gotta be to steal money from GIRL SCOUTS at WOODBRIDGE MALL?!— ???????????????????????????????????? (@shala1009) January 20, 2019
“We were shocked and devastated. The girls had worked so hard. Everybody was crying,” Medina told the New York Post Monday, noting that the troop members were trying hard to remain positive. “The girls’ spirits were down but we’re going to march on and keep trying.”
Even workers at the mall were feeling salty about the theft, saying the people responsible ought to get their just desserts.
“They should give the money back,” said Nina Chatlani, 62, a sales representative for Leather Warehouse. “They should have a heart.”
Despite the unfortunate experience, the scouts say they will continue to sell cookies until they hit their target.
“We will pull up our Girl Scout pants, put on our vests and venture out again. We will not be held back by cowardly thieves,” Medina said.
“Honest to God, the good in my heart wants to truly believe this is a misunderstanding and he simply didn’t know or was aware of what he was doing,” she added.
“What a shame to steal, but then steal from children who are doing it all for a good cause to learn how to become strong women leaders of America?” Gabrielle Gaetano wrote on Facebook Sunday. “I’m proud that they kept their heads held high and kept selling!”
Police were investigating but had no suspects Monday, according to Capt. Scott Kuzma, of the Woodbridge Police Department.
Anyone with information may call Woodbridge police at 732-634-7700.
The good news is that the girls from the troop will not remain without support, as good samaritans struck by their story have already offered to help.
“My sister was a Brownie and Girl Scout back in the 60s,” Mick Kless wrote in an email to NJ Advance Media, seeking contact information for the troop. “I’m originally from Fords but have lived down the Shore for the past 33 years. I would like to donate $1,200 to replace it.”