Who stole $85,000 from the Girl Scouts’ cookie jar?

Stephanie Person’s accused of embezzling $85,000 from the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida
Stephanie Person’s accused of embezzling $85,000 from the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

A former Girl Scouts member services coordinator in Sarasota stands accused of embezzling $85,000 — the equivalent of approximately 14,166 boxes of Trefoil shortbread cookies — from the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast.

Stephanie Person remains in the Sarasota County Jail on $51,000 bond for fraudulently obtaining property worth less than $20,000 and larceny between $20,000 and $100,000. The Sarasota County Sheriff’s office website says Person admitted she started stealing the money to sustain her through personally tough economic times, but when she found how easily she could steal, she couldn’t stop.

“I was extremely surprised at this,” Sue Stewart, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, told WFLA Channel 8. “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.”

Instead, the girls got a lesson in crime.

According to the SCSO, Person was responsible for managing the money for 500 troops, including money made from hawking those cookies in offices and Publix parking lots. She began using an inactive troop account to move money to herself.

But the transfers and withdrawals left not only a digital trail, but a video one as well, as it was done at ATMs. SCSO used the electronic evidence and surveillance video to confirm Person’s bank account funny business.

When Stewart reported to law enforcement in May that $75,000 was missing from the troop account, Person’s position immediately put her under suspicion. She has one prior criminal conviction, a DUI from 2003.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal