There is new information in a magazine sales scam in Johnson County. The Overland Park police chief explains who blew the whistle on a company accused of exploiting both clients and employees.
Two parents from hundreds of miles away from the Kansas City area called police and asked them to help their children. The kids were found at the Knights Inn motel located just off Shawnee Mission Parkway and were caught up in a scam police have since learned is bigger than even they expected.
"The scope of the tragedy that's taken place, it would be easy just to run it out of town and get it away from us, but the kids are still in the middle," said Capt. James Olney with the Overland Park Police Department.
It started as a door-to-door magazine sales scam, which police departments deal with often, but the more Overland Park police learned about one particular group, the more troubling for authorities it becomes.
"There are people on both ends being exploited," said Olney.
Two teens from Tennessee blew the case wide open. The boyfriend and girlfriend answered an ad online for a job in sales and, the next thing they knew, they were on a 17-hour bus ride to Overland Park. But when they got here, the job wasn't at all as billed.
"They are put up in mass hotel rooms," said Chief John Douglass. "They get a limited amount of money a day, maybe as little as $10 a day, and if they get a meal it's one meal a day."
Then comes the job. The teens said they were told to lie in order to make a sale, telling residents they are from a local charity or raising money for a school fundraiser, whatever they can to bring in money. In this case, police learned the orders for the magazines were being torn up but the checks were being cashed. When the teens said they wanted out of it, they were stuck.
"Basically they were left to fend for themselves, there wasn't a way to get out once they got here," said Douglass.
Police have arrested and charged three people from the group with consumer fraud. But Douglass said his department is going after the parent companies - those who are getting rich by stealing from residents and taking advantage of the kids who find themselves stuck is a horrible situation.
"If the police department's not here to protect people and children, why are we here," said Olney.
Police said, in addition to the three arrests, they also had to place two children in protective custody.
Click here for KCTV5's previous coverage on this story.
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