Woman hands out $100 bills for drinks, then is sent to hospital | AspenTimes.com

Woman hands out $100 bills for drinks, then is sent to hospital

John Colson

As La Cocina gets set for its final weekend of business in Aspen, it seems a visiting woman was trying to help restaurateurs Nick and Sarah Lebby finish off their business in style by paying for rounds of drinks and big tips for the bartenders.Unfortunately for the woman, and the beneficiaries of her largesse, she was arrested Wednesday on trespassing charges and reportedly sent to a Boulder-area hospital for observation.Carrie Megan Austin, 29, of Denver reportedly was handing out $100 bills to strangers this week, instructing them to use the money to buy a round of drinks at La Cocina and then give the change to the bartender as a tip.According to one of the recipients, teacher Chris Brinkley of Aspen, he was escorting a group of preschoolers around town on Monday when he spied a woman he thought was staring at him.After stopping at Paradise Bakery and getting cookies, he said, he and the kids were moving away when “she walks right up and starts talking.”He said she told him, “I want to invite you to a party” and pulled a $20 bill out of an envelope filled with cash but muttered something about “That’s not your ticket” and put the bill away. Next she pulled out a $100 bill from the same envelope, Brinkley said, and told him, “This is your ticket.” She ultimately handed him two $100 bills, one for him and one for “a guest,” then instructed him to go to La Cocina, buy some drinks, and give the bartender a good tip.He did exactly that, that same night, and afterward asked the bartender if anything similar had happened already that night.”He told me, ‘You’re the third,'” Brinkley said, adding that he had watched as “she gave away $800, in about three minutes,” including $200 to one of his fellow preschool teachers. She instructed each recipient to do the same thing with the money.Asked why he didn’t just pocket the money, Brinkley said, “I don’t think I could.”Anyway, he added, “I was hoping there’d be some kind of back-door party, a valor ticket” for those who followed the woman’s instructions. There was not, he said.Brinkley said he saw Austin on Tuesday night at an event at the Belly Up bar but that “she didn’t really act like she remembered giving me the money.”Aspen police got a call from The Little Nell hotel shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday, asking for an officer to deal with a woman who had been asked to leave but had refused.Officer Walter Chi confirmed on Thursday that he had arrested Austin on a charge of trespassing. He declined to discuss the specifics of the incident.Sarah Lebby said Austin, along with members of her family, had recently come in for dinner but that she did not know her or know why she might be encouraging strangers to patronize La Cocina.Nick Lebby said he, too, recalled the party but had no personal knowledge of her or her reasons for handing out the money.”My only thought is, maybe she had a great time and thought the service was great,” he said with a chuckle. “We try to treat everybody nice, make everybody feel welcome. We didn’t know we treated ’em that nice, though.”John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com