Tuesday’s charges are unrelated to McGowan’s generosity on Friday, when he bought an entire stock of cookies from Girl Scouts in front of a Greenville, S.C., grocery store so the girls wouldn’t have to continue standing in the cold.
“Nobody was hurt. Nobody was threatened,” Karen Kelly, a vice president of the local Girl Scouts chapter, said in an interview with the Greenville News. “We had no reason to believe that this man was anything other than one of our valuable customers. … This is now in the hands of law enforcement and of course we will cooperate with authorities.”
Local media reported Tuesday evening that the DEA confirmed McGowan’s arrest that day and confirmed he was the man who appeared in the viral social media photo, adding a bizarre coda to a story that was, fleetingly, feel-good.
On Friday, the 8-year-olds were behind the booth for nearly two hours when a man believed to be McGowan exited the BI-LO supermarket. He bought seven boxes of cookies and handed the girls $40, telling them to keep the change, recalled Kayla Dillard, a troop co-leader who was supervising the sale.
The girls thanked him, and he walked toward the parking lot. Several minutes later, he pulled up to the booth in a car.
“Pack them up. I’m going to take them all so you can get out of the cold weather,” he said, according to Dillard, noting he had seen the girls shivering.
He bought 121 boxes, totaling $484. He gave the children $500. Again, he didn’t want the change.
“He got whatever we had,” Dillard said, including Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Patties, Peanut Butter Sandwiches, S’mores, Lemonades and Shortbread cookies.
There were two boys waiting to buy cookies, too, Dillard remembered. They had $4 between them — enough for one box — and were debating which to buy. Dillard said the man told the boys “to pick whatever they wanted out of the boxes he purchased.”
McGowan’s indictment, which was filed Feb. 19, details his years-long role in an alleged scheme to smuggle fentanyl, heroin and cocaine from Mexico into the United States. McGowan, who court documents say sometimes went by “Fat,” was also charged with, among other crimes, conspiracy to structure transactions to evade reporting requirements, an offense that involves careful attention to financial transactions.