A former Brownie troop leader has pleaded not guilty to stealing nearly $6,000 that her troop raised selling Girl Scout cookies (search).

Girls Scout officials said they discovered the money was missing from the Torrance troop's account last September.

They said 30-year-old Dawn Marie Irwin (search) left a paper trail showing she'd been taking the money.

Irwin said she was forced to take the money to pay off blackmailers who had beaten her and threatened her life.

Parents said the troop lacked funds for planned outings because of the theft.