Police in New Jersey are on the lookout for a cowardly crook, after they stole over $1,000 from a group of Girl Scouts who had been selling cookies at the mall. Hoping to raise money for a highly-anticipated trip to Savannah, Georgia - where the Girl Scouts were formed - these young girls aged between five and 12, were denied in the cruellest of fashion.
Setting up shop near a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Woodbridge Center Mall, the girls had successfully raised around $1,100 for their trip by expertly selling Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos and Samoas. At around 4:40pm that afternoon, Girl Scout mom Jessica Medina, 38, was about to take their hard-earned savings to the bank, when she realised that the money had disappeared.
"We were shocked and devastated," said Medina, who has two daughters in the Girl Scout troop - 11-year-old Aryanna and Oliviya, who is five years old. But rather than having misplaced the cash or it being a simple misunderstanding, a nefarious thief seems to have made off with the cash.
According to Lauren Dipillo, whose goddaughter is a member of the troop, surveillance footage from the mall appears to have caught footage of the culprit nabbing an envelope with over $500 in cash, as well as cheques set down on the table.
The man, who was with an elderly woman using a red walker and appeared to be handicapped himself, had first asked to buy a box of Caramel de Lites and some Peanut Butter Patties, according to Medina. Then, as Medina set the cash down to help 11-year-old Olivia Limmer manage the transaction, the money was gone in a flash.
“I was behind the table and he reached over it to grab the envelope. He slipped it in his jacket. He did it very fast — in the blink of an eye,” recalled Medina, while Olivia added: "I didn’t see him take the money but I saw he nudged the woman to say, 'Let’s go.'"
Medina realised the money had been stolen almost immediately. "I was on my way out, and I said, 'Did I drop it? Where did it go?'" She didn't immediately suspect the man, who was tall with shaggy hair, because he appeared to be special needs, swaying back and forth and slurring his words.
But surveillance footage appears to show that this was all a 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 explained, adding that they were trying to avert the gaze while the man stole their money.
"I’m pretty angry. It’s heartbreaking. You shouldn’t steal from anybody, but stealing from Girl Scouts is even worse."
Captain Scott Kuzma of the Woodbridge Police Department said that they were investigating the case, but that as of Monday, there were no suspects as yet. Still, such a cruel crime hasn't broken the Girl Scouts' work ethic, and they revealed they were going to keep trying to raise money for their trip.
"The girls’ spirits were down but we’re going to march on and keep trying," Medina said.