Teen claims she was held captive

KXLY News, Washington/May 12, 2008

Spokane - The Spokane Police Department is investigating a teenager's claims that she was held as a captive worker by a door-to-door sales company.

The teen, who is being held in protective custody at the Juvenile Justice Center, is a runaway who thought selling magazines door-to-door across the country would be a great way to escape her problems in Spokane.

However once she started working for the magazine company she says she was held captive by fear and finance.

If you're a street kid and look like you carry everything you own around in a backpack you've almost certainly been approached by a magazine travel crew.

"They just tried to get me to go and sell magazines for them and I'm not gonna do that because my friend got lost from California here," Raychael Cook said.

Street kids call the magazine sales firm "The Cult", as in once you start working for the company it's hard to get out.

"They actually came here last year and I was living here and they actually took five kids away from here and two of them never came back," Cook said.

Consider the case of the 16-year-old runaway in protective custody. After being approached by the company at a fast food restaurant she and her boyfriend were offered rooms at a north Spokane motel. However soon the amount of money they owed the company for rent or food outpaced their magazine sales and the teens did not feel they were free to leave the organization.

"During the day they were monitored where they went so they were really scrutinized and that's not really freedom and as you said the jobs it's more like owing the company store," Meta Marshall with the Spokane Police Department said.

Marshall tracks runaways for the police and worries about travel crews trolling for recruits in area parks and teen shelters.

"It's gotta be kids they pick up all over, if this outfit's operating in Washington but also taking the kids down to California and Florida, there have to be other caravans," Marshall said.

Marshall says the 16-year-old in protective custody escaped from the travel crew one night after her boyfriend was beaten for poor sales performance.

The Better Business Bureau warns this circulation company is taking its customers' money door-to-door but not delivering the magazines.

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