A man accused of stealing about $45 in cash from a donation jar belonging to Girl Scouts selling cookies outside a grocery store was arrested Thursday, officials confirmed.
David Betancort, 21, is suspected in the petty theft that turned a day of selling sweet treats into a sour situation for a couple of Girl Scouts from Troop #2034 on Saturday.
Police said Betancort – who was known to have warrants issued for his arrest on unrelated cases -- was located by detectives and U.S. Marshals inside an Escondido residence. Once officials made contact with Betancort, he fled the home and led officials on a short foot pursuit. Shortly thereafter, he was taken into custody for the arrest warrants.
Police said the investigation into the Girl Scouts theft will now be passed along to the San Diego District Attorney’s office with a recommendation that he be charged with petty theft.
On Saturday, Girl Scouts Zoe and Gracie Fullerton, under their mother’s supervision, were selling cookies outside the Albertson’s grocery store located at 1570 W. Valley Pkwy. in Escondido.
The girls had set up a table outside the store and were going about their business when, suddenly, Betancort ran out of the store.
As he ran past the girls, he allegedly stole money from a tip jar on their table that was set up to collect donations for something called “Operation Thin Mint,” a program that originated in San Diego County designed to provide cookies and support to U.S. troops deployed overseas.
After nabbing the cash, the suspect jumped into a getaway car and fled the scene.
A troop leader and other witnesses memorized the license plate of the fleeing vehicle and notified police, who were able to trace that information to Betancort, eventually leading to his arrest.
The incident left the Girl Scouts and their mother with a very bad taste in their mouths.
“Not only did they rob the Girl Scouts, they robbed the soldiers, too,” the girls’ mother, Erin, told NBC 7 in an interview Saturday.
During the incident witnesses banded together to try to stop the suspect.
Employees inside the grocery store also rallied behind the Girl Scouts, collecting donations to replace the money that was stolen.
"A lot of people really restored our faith in humanity," Erin said.
Betancort is being housed at the Vista Detention Facility and scheduled to appear in court Friday for other charges stemming from his warrants.
Following word of the alleged thief’s arrest, Mary Doyle, director of communications for Girl Scouts San Diego, released this statement Thursday evening:
"Girl Scouts do so much good in the community, and it’s unfortunate that they were targeted by a thief. Congratulations and thank you to the police for their diligence in apprehending the suspect.
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It was heartwarming that so many people rallied to support the girls and our Operation Thin Mint program. Thank you to all San Diegans who participate in our cookie program that teaches girls valuable skills, keeps Girl Scouting available and affordable for 30,000 local girls, and sends “a taste of home” to military troops far from home."