Fort Collins man could end up paying hundreds of dollars for $42 worth of Girl Scout cookies

Cookie complaint filed with state Attorney General

FORT COLLINS, CO - A Fort Collins, Colo. man could end up paying hundreds of dollars in legal fees for $42 worth of Girl Scout cookies, and he's filed a complaint with the Colorado Attorney General's Office.

"It's crazy that someone is willing to sue me for $42," said Tad Osborn.

Osborn wrote a check to Colorado Girl Scout Troop 70239 for $42 on Jan. 28, 2013.

Osborn told Scripps 7NEWS Investigative Reporter Amanda Kost that the check was good, because his account was open and had sufficient funds.

But now he's in the middle of a legal battle over that check for Girl Scout cookies. 

"I never received notification from anyone until the collection agency contacted me," said Osborn.

The cookies were long gone in July 2013, when Osborn said he first learned about a problem with his payment. Osborn received a return check notice from Checkway stating he owed $82. Osborn was billed $42 for the initial check, and another $40 in service charges and collection costs.

Osborn responded by sending a written notice, disputing the validity of the claim. 

Documents obtained by 7NEWS show the check was stamped with "closed account," the reason it was returned.

However, Osborn said his account was not closed. A letter from the bank branch supervisor reviewing the validity of Osborn's account at his bank states, "Osborn has never had a closed account with us."

"And I gave this to the Girl Scouts and they still ignored it. Because they said, 'Well it's gone to collections, we're not involved,'" said Osborn.  

Osborn reached out to the Girl Scouts of Colorado to try and clear up the confusion regarding his check, but said he was instructed to contact the collection agency.  

"I don't have anything against the Girl Scouts or their cause. I just feel like [Girl Scout] management should've listened to me when I explained the situation and made it right," said Osborn. 

Osborn tried to resolve the issue by sending a second check to the Girl Scouts for $42, but he said that check, along with his initial check were never cashed.

"I paid them with a perfectly valid check. And now, is it my responsibility to make sure that they cash the check correctly? I don't think so. So, that's where the frustration is," said Osborn.

An attorney representing AAA Collectors sued Osborn, and the collection agency is seeking a summary judgment that breaks down to $126 in principal, $450 in attorney fees, and $163.85 in court costs. That adds up to $739.85 for $42 worth of Girl Scout Cookies.

Instead of agreeing to the summary judgment, Osborn is fighting the case. He filed a counterclaim seeking $694 in attorney and filing fees.

"I just want my money back. I'm already into it $100 just to file a response, and then if you win this case, I'm looking at $800 worth of fees that I'm going to have to pay for $42 worth of girl scout cookies, really? How is this possible? I just, it blows my mind that it's come this far," said Osborn. 

The trial date has been set for May 8 in Larimer County.

7NEWS reached out to the Girl Scouts of Colorado. Spokesperson, Rachelle Trujillo, said she is unwilling to comment on Osborn's issue until after the trial. We asked Trujillo to explain the policy for handling returned checks for the Girl Scouts of Colorado. 

"As the largest girl-led business in the country, the Cookie Activity runs like a strong business. When a check is returned by a bank, the troop attempts to contact the customer and the council verifies that steps were taken to resolve the debt. We reimburse the troop so they are not penalized for bad debt from a customer. Like any other business, after attempting to resolve the debt, we use a professional collection agency. Once we turn a debt over to a collection agency, it is contractually out of our hands and we can not recall the collection from the agency." 

"Did anyone notify you?" Kost asked Obsborn.

"I had no idea. The Girl Scouts sent it to collections without notifying me in any way," he said.

Because of his experience so far dealing with attorneys and collection agencies, Osborn has filed a consumer complaint with the Colorado Attorney General.

"The Girl Scout management mishandled this for sure. They didn't contact me. They didn't follow their own internal procedures. I don't blame the Girl Scouts. I think it's a nonprofit organization that does great for kids," said Osborn.

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