A Philomath-area Girl Scouts troop leader was arrested Saturday for allegedly stealing $7,500 to $8,500 from the troop’s bank account.

Sheila Cowart, 28, of Philomath, was booked on a felony charge of first-degree theft and released on her own recognizance the same day.

Cowart had been a troop leader for the Girl Scouts of the USA for six years up until two weeks ago, when she announced her resignation from Troop 21371 by sending emails to the parents of some of her troop members.

Cowart said in a telephone interview Monday that she hopes to work with the Girl Scouts of the USA to enter a civil compromise in which she would repay the money and the criminal charge would be dismissed. Cowart has not yet been arraigned in court on the charge.

Sarah Miller, a spokeswoman for the Oregon and Southwest Washington Council of the Girls Scouts of the USA said it was too early in the process to discuss the possibility of a civil compromise.

“Our procedure in a scenario like this is to do a thorough review of the troop’s finances, and we’re not even halfway finished with the review, so we can’t comment on that,” Miller said.

Until the review is complete, Miller said, she also couldn’t comment about whether the missing money had come from cookie sales or some other fundraising effort.

Harmony George, the regional council’s chief financial officer, said that they are reviewing bank records from the beginning of Cowart’s tenure.

The theft allegation came to light on April 12 when George reported to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office that $7,477 was unaccounted for. According to Deputy Adam Miller’s report, George told investigators that Cowart was not returning phone calls, and that she offered insufficient explanations about the missing money through email. Cowart allegedly had offered the excuse that cookie sales were still going on when George knew that sales in the area had concluded three weeks before.

Upon questioning, Cowart allegedly told deputies that she took the troop’s money to pay off credit card debt that had grown out of control, according to the sheriff’s report. She allegedly said that her husband was unaware of what she had done, and that she tried to repay the money. She said she was unsuccessful in taking out a bank loan and was hoping she could buy enough time until she received her tax return.

George eventually sent investigators documents that revealed that $20,545.80 in troop proceeds should have been deposited into the council’s account, but that the deposits fell $8,475 short — more than George originally had believed was missing. Another document revealed that the missing money was not in the troop’s account because it had only $2.08 as of March 29.

Reporter Canda Fuqua can be reached at 541-758-9548 or canda.fuqua@lee.net.

(7) comments

barfly

She doesn't deserve to keep her job. Period!

cupcake1020

She's an accountant somewhere to mabey they should check those funds as well. What kind of person steals from girl scouts . How did her husband not know id be very curious as to how that much credit card debt got paid off so fast. He had to have known .

littlebit

She doesn't have a job, she quit the scouts and has had a Mary Kay business on the side for a few months, notice the bright red lips in her mug shot.

Craver65

I like how she crys on tv apologizing about her action and is concerned about herself and how people see her. Never once mention the embarrassment she is causing her daughter because of her lack of integrity. She didn't even show the respect for her kids to lay low and not cause attention to them, but want cry her way out on it on tv. Hand her a roll of toilet paper, and throw the book at her. She knew what she was doing when she stole she just got caught.

peppertree

I'm trying to understand how the theft was accomplished. Isn't it a requirement of the Girl Scouts organization that any checks or withdrawals from the troops' bank accounts have dual signatures (usually a troop leader and co-leader, or leader and . . . some other adult or one of the more responsible troop members)?

Lorane
Lorane

This is so sad. She was supposedly a role model for the young women. It's hard to understand why she would have stolen from those girl scouts. To me, this as bad or worse than embezzling from an employer. Curious as to why the judge did not see it this way. It would seem that community service and probation would be the minimum required in addition to reimbursing what was stolen. She is a felon and future employers will have no way of knowing this via a background check. This plea agreement serves no one but her.

Lorane
Lorane

This is so sad for her troop and family. As a leader, she was a role model for these young ladies. Stealing from them is unbelievable. This theft is as bad or worse than embezzling from an employer. Strange that a judge would not consider this. At a minimum she should repay what she stole plus interest, do community service and be placed on parole for a reasonable time. She is a felon and because of the plea arrangement, future potential employers will not find this in a background check.

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