Highland News Leader

Couple used fake cash to buy Girl Scout cookies, concessions at church basketball game, Highland police say

Buy Girl Scout cookies with fake money, you may find yourself under arrest

On Saturday, March 3, Highland Police arrested two individuals who allegedly used counterfeit money to buy Girl Scout cookies at a stand in front of the Walmart in Highland.
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On Saturday, March 3, Highland Police arrested two individuals who allegedly used counterfeit money to buy Girl Scout cookies at a stand in front of the Walmart in Highland.

Witnesses said they wouldn’t share a box of Do-si-dos. Now a Caseyville couple will have to take a whirl through the Madison County court system together after police said they used counterfeit money to buy Girl Scout cookies.

Lena M. Peterson, 31, and Christopher C. Vanbibber, 33, had been in Highland to attend a church basketball game early Saturday morning before they headed to Walmart, police said.

Local Girls Scouts were also at Walmart that morning, selling cookies. Peterson and Vanbibber came up to their stand, police said.

Yumi Hohm, a mother of one of the Scouts, said a woman, whom police later identified as Peterson, handed one of the girls $20 for a box of cookies. During the transaction, Peterson kept saying that her boyfriend needed to buy his own box of cookies, because she was not going to share, Hohm said.

After she got her change, Hohm said Peterson passed by a man, later unidentified as Vanbibber.

Lena M. Peterson Highland Police Provided

"She stomped by and screamed at him to buy his own cookies," Hohm said.

The man gave the troop another $20 for a single box of cookies, HohmHohm said.

Following the sale, Hohm said the troop was out of change, so she grabbed two $20s from the cash box and went to the counter at Woodforest National Bank, which is located inside Walmart. Hohm said she handed one of the bills to a teller, who marked it with a pen used to detect counterfeits. The bill didn't pass the test, Hohm said.

"And I said, 'I know who gave this to me,'" Hohm said.

Counterfeit bills
Counterfeit bills allegedly given to a Highland Girl Scout troop on March 3. The troop was selling cookies in the grocery section of Walmart in Highland. Provided by the Highland Police Department

At that point, the bank clerk looked at Hohm and said the couple was still in the store.

Hohm said she went to get the rest of the money to have it checked, and the clerk's pen revealed another possible counterfeit bill. She called the cops.

As she was on the phone with the police just after 10 a.m., Hohm said the couple approached the troop a third time.

"I'm like, 'They are trying to buy some more cookies,'" she said.

But before Peterson could get her change, Hohm said the couple took off.

"She said, 'Oh, just keep the money as a donation,'" Hohm said.

Highland Police Sgt. Scott Athmer said a city patrol car happened to be close by.

"We were able to get (the couple's car) stopped on an adjacent parking lot before they left," Athmer said.

During the traffic stop, police said they identified Peterson and Vanbibber as the same people who allegedly passed the counterfeit money to the Girl Scouts. Police also determined that the money was counterfeit, according to Athmer. They were arrested at 10:08.

The case was presented to the Madison County State's Attorney's Office on Monday.

Peterson was charged with a single county of felony forgery, as well as one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, both Class 3 felonies. Police said Peterson had meth in her possession at the time of her arrest.

Vanbibber was charged with two counts of felony forgery. Police said further investigation revealed that Vanbibber had also passed a suspected counterfeit bill at the concession stand at Highland Hope United Methodist Church earlier that morning during an Upward Basketball game, a program billed as giving "kids a chance to learn about basketball, sportsmanship and Jesus."

Christopher C. Vanbibber Highland Police Provided

As for the Girl Scouts, Hohm said they handled the situation very well and were able to keep calm and identify clues about the couple that even she could not remember.

"They knew they had an easy mark with these little girls, but that is what caused them to get arrested," Hohm said.

The troop will be at the Highland City Council meeting Monday night, where Mayor Joe Michaelis will read a proclamation for Girl Scouts Week.