A Rancho Cucamonga Girl Scout troop is short $200 in fundraising money after two people purchased boxes of cookies with counterfeit cash.
A man and woman targeted two different grocery store locations where the troop was selling cookies. Although both groups of girls used a counterfeit detector pen on the counterfeit bills, the $50 bills passed the pen test. If the currency is valid the pen leaves a faint yellow or clear mark. If the mark turns black, the bill is phony.
The bills were able to defeat the pen because they used the "same paper" as legitimate U.S. currency, said Teresa McMahon, public information officer for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
They didn’t know the $50s were phony until the store identified them as such, McMahon told NBC4.
Law enforcement agents believe that the two incidents are related because the bills share the same serial number. The cases occurred approximately an hour apart, according to the victim.
In response, the police department held a short class Monday night on spotting counterfeit money. About 70 parents and scouts attended.
This isn’t the first time Girl Scouts members have been targeted locally, said McMahon. This type of scam is unfortunate, but not unprecedented, she added.
"I believe they’re targeted because they are a vulnerable entity."
“We are appalled that anyone would use counterfeit money to steal from a Girl Scout," the Girl Scounrs of Greater Los Angeles said in a statement to NBC4. "This crime takes away proceeds from Girl Scout Cookie sales that fund girl programs and projects in our community. This incident puts a fine point on the relevancy of Girl Scouts and programs like it that teach values, principles, and ethics."
At least one of the grocery stores has video surveillance, but police have not obtained nor watched the footage. The investigation is at a "stand still" until management provides the tape(s), McMahon said.
Details regarding the scammers' descriptions were not immediately available.