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Updated: Tuesday, 20 Nov 2012, 10:37 PM EST
Published : Tuesday, 20 Nov 2012, 10:37 PM EST
By: Adrienne Broaddus
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Children can often be seen selling candy at local gas stations, grocery stores, strip malls or department stores. They say it’s for a good cause, but I-Team 8 discovered those causes may not exist.
Our cameras caught a young girl selling candy just before 11 p.m. on a school night in September. She said she was raising money for the Watkins Family Center in Indianapolis.
“I have milk chocolate, almond and dark chocolate,” the young child told us. Her chocolate bars were $2.
A spokesperson at the Watkins Family Center told us they never have children sell candy to raise money.
It happened again in mid-September. Our cameras captured a teen selling outside a north side gas station.
“I'm with the Junior Career Program,” the teen told us in his sales pitch. “It’s to keep teenagers off the streets and away from drugs, gangs and violence.”
He was selling chocolate turtles. One box cost $6. Two would cost $10. He made sure to tell us donations were accepted along with checks. Moments later, he revealed that he makes money.
“Personally, I do, we do get paid for doing this,” he admitted. “The money I do get, like I try to be halfway responsible. I probably give my momma like $30 to help pay the gas bill,” he said.
Lori Torres with the Indiana Department of Labor says if a child is being paid, that's the first red flag.
“You can't get paid by the box. You can't be paid by the hour. You also have to be doing it for a not-for-profit,” Torres said.
On the surface, the program seems like a good cause. But we looked closer at the phone number, email and website address on the flyer the teen provided. The website address wasn’t a workable address. And no one responded when I-Team 8 tried to email and call.
The day the teen approached us in a marked WISH-TV vehicle at the gas station, a store employee asked him to leave. Another employee said teens are frequently dropped off in the area to sell candy bars.
A few weeks later, I-Team 8 spotted two boys who said they were 13. Their sales pitch was familiar. The first teen, holding a brown box said, “I work for the Junior Career Program. The JCP is a program to help kids off the street and stay away from violence and drugs. I just wanted to know if you’d like to help us out today and purchase a box of chocolate.”
The boys provided a different flyer, but the name of the group was the same.
The Department of Labor believes what we've caught on camera are violations of the state's child labor laws. For more information on those laws, click here.
Torres said the law allows for minors (children under 16) to sell goods or services as a fundraiser for a school, government agency, or legitimate charity. Those children are not allowed to receive compensation. Children are allowed to sell door-to-door or in front of a store if it is for a not-for-profit organization and if they follow the rules of the property owners/managers.
With questions about the group called Junior Career Program, I-Team 8 wanted to find the person named Ron who both boys we’d encountered named as their supervisor. We made several attempts over a few weeks to reach him. After getting no response, we visited Ron's home on the city's east side. We were told Ron wasn’t home but he was out selling candy.
Two hours later, reporter Adrienne Broaddus’ phone rang. It was a woman who identified herself as Vernell Miller. She said she and her nephew Ron run the Junior Career Program. She referred us to this website