A Sarasota, Florida, Girl Scouts coordinator has been arrested and charged with grand theft and scheme to defraud after she stole nearly $85,000.
Stephanie Person, 41, was arrested Wednesday for the theft after it came to light that she had pilfered the coffers of the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida.
Person served as the coordinator of member services for 10 years and was in charge of handling 500 individual troops’ funds and banking, including cookie sales, according to a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office press release.
Person was responsible for dispersing money for field trips and community service projects to troops throughout the Tampa Bay area.
An investigation was initiated in May after the CEO of the organization discovered more than $75,000 was missing. From the beginning of the investigation, Person was “identified as a possible suspect since she handled troop funds and banking,” investigators said.
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Financial hardship some eight months ago prompted Person to transfer money into an inactive Girl Scouts account, from which Person drew money, according to the press release.
“Electronic evidence and surveillance photos from various banks throughout Sarasota County confirmed Person had withdrawn nearly $85,000 in troop funds.”
Despite safeguards in place, officials said Person was crafty in her methods.
Person told detectives that she took money during an eight-month period, Lt. Joe Giasone with the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office told KXAN.
“When she realized how easy it was, she just kept doing it. She described it as like an addiction, she just kept doing it and couldn’t stop. She said she used it for living expenses and she was buying scratch-off lottery tickets, wasn’t buying anything tangible.”
According to an affidavit obtained by KXAN, Person stole a total of $84,760.
Sue Stewart, the CEO of the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida told the news organization that the theft came as a complete surprise and promised the money would be returned to the individual troops.
“I was extremely surprised at this. We had a 10-year, trusted former employee. As Girl Scouts, we’re teaching our girls to be honest and fair, and it really is disappointing that we’re upholding a mission and that this could occur.”
To prevent a similar occurrence in the future, the organization has hired new staff and stricter controls have been put in place.
According to duccrim.com, the $700 million Girl Scouts cookie empire is often targeted by troop leaders who find it far too easy to steal money.
In January 2015, two former troop leaders of the Parkersburg, West Virginia, Girl Scouts were arrested after they used money from cookie sales and a yard sale to pay for a vacation. Denise Davis and Mary Farnsworth were indicted on charges of embezzlement and conspiracy to commit a felony after stealing $2,400 in 2011 to take their daughters to Florida to visit Sea World.
In June, the women copped a plea and the case was dismissed on the condition that the women pay back the money, according to the Gazette-Mail.
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In a separate case, Virginia Girl Scouts CEO Linda Carne pleaded guilty to embezzlement and faced a sentence of up to 20 years in April 2014 after she admitted to “charging nearly $23,000 on her Girl Scout credit card for spa treatments, hotel rooms, professional baseball games and expenses to travel around the country,” according to the website.
The case against Person is still under investigation.
The former Girl Scouts coordinator is being held for theft at the Sarasota County jail on a $9,000 bond.
[Image via Sarasota County (FL) Sheriff’s Office]