By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 43-year-old southern Minnesota man is accused of stealing more than 20 cases of Girl Scout cookies from a loading dock in Rochester over the weekend. The value of the cookies, authorities say, is estimated at $1,250.

Joel Whittaker, of Oronoco, is charged with felony counts of burglary and theft, court documents filed in Olmsted County show. If convicted on both counts, he faces up to a decade in prison and/or $20,000 in fines.

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(credit: Olmsted County)

According to a criminal complaint, Whittaker was arrested late Saturday night behind the old Fareway Foods building on East Frontage Road in Rochester. Local police responding to an alarm call spotted Whittaker driving away from the building in a small sedan. Officers stopped him and noticed the backseat of the car was full of Girl Scout cookie boxes.

Whittaker told the officers that he was dumpster diving in the GMC dumpster when he saw the loading dock door was partially open. Inside were pallets stacked with Girl Scout cookies. Whittaker pulled his car up to the loading dock and began filling his car with cookie boxes, investigators say. He stuffed the boxes in his car until the backseat and the trunk were full.

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Although the cookies were stacked by flavor on the pallets, Whittaker took a mix of flavors. Officers found loose packages of cookies in Whittaker’s car and on the loading dock table. In total, he took 23 cases of cookies, investigators say, removing them from the pallets and putting them on the loading dock floor or in his car.

Officers took Whittaker into custody and searched his vehicle. They found two stolen license plates, a pry bar and bolt cutters, a used meth pipe, and a small amount of heroin.

Twenty-five of the cookies boxes that were removed from the pallets and touched the floor were turned over to police by the property manager for the Girl Scouts, the complaint states. These cookies were delivered to the Salvation Army Day Center for their use.

Whittaker made his first court appearance on Monday morning. He was released on a long list of conditions, including that he remain law-abiding, submit to random testing and searches, and refrain from taking drugs or drinking alcohol.

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