ROCKVILLE CENTRE, New York – A group of Girl Scouts were selling cookies at the Rockville Centre train station Wednesday evening when a cash-hungry thief stole their proceeds, according to Nassau County police.
Michael Avelli, 34, of Deer Park, walked up to the Scouts around 5:45 p.m. and pretended to be interested in buying cookies at first – then spotted the girls’ silver-colored cash box with nearly $100 inside, and grabbed it, police said.
A bystander who heard someone yelling, “He just stole the money!” spotted Avelli running past with a backpack on.
The Good Samaritan chased after Avelli and grabbed him, but the suspected thief wheeled around and allegedly smashed him in the face with the cash box – breaking it open and showering money onto the platform. Avelli managed to break free and run away, but left his backpack and all of the cash behind.
The Good Samaritan suffered a bruised face but refused medical treatment at the scene.
Later that afternoon, workers at a taxi stand at the train station dialed 911 after the say Avelli asked them if anyone had turned in a lost backpack that day.
Police used a cellphone they found in the backpack to track down Avelli, arresting him at his home Thursday. He now faces a second-degree robbery charge and will be arraigned Friday in First District Court in Hempstead.
“In the 98 year history of Girl Scouts of Nassau County, there doesn’t appear to have been an incident involving attempted theft similar to this case,” a spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts said. “It is unfortunate someone would attempt to steal from Girl Scouts who work hard to not only carry on the 95-year old tradition of selling cookies loved by most everyone, but who also give people the opportunity to buy boxes of cookies dedicated to be sent to our U.S. Troops deployed overseas. This recent event will serve as a lesson to our Girls to not let an isolated negative incident stop them from proceeding to do good work to help others.”
Keith Lopez contributed to this report.