PLAINVIEW, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Two men are under arrest on Long Island, accused of endangering the welfare of the children they allegedly put to work selling candy.
You see them on street corners and going door-to-door – children selling candy for their youth organizations.
Outside a Plainview Starbucks Sunday night, alarmed patrons noticed a young girl alone selling candy.
"She did look scared," one person told CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff. "She was so young."
Prosecutors say they found 10 unsupervised children in the area peddling cookies and candy, cold and dressed inappropriately. They were all alone on unfamiliar turf and unable to find the two chaperones who allegedly left them here.
Shoppers say it's not the first time it's happened.
"I've seen kids here at night waiting for a ride. It's almost like child labor putting these kids out there. "I've seen a kid crying about it once if they don't sell candy," one resident claimed.
Police later arrested 19-year-old Kavon Thompson and 24-year-old Jamainne Hall, who were both charged with endangering the welfare of children.
The children from Brooklyn and the Bronx – who were all between the ages of 11 and 16 - told police they were brought to Nassau County and left there all day by the New York Youth Club. The organization has faced complaints of child exploitation before.
Their attorney says the group employs at-risk city kids and - with the candy funding activities - provides an alternative to gangs and crime. The only jurisdiction that has pressed charges is Nassau County.
"Every one of those cases has been dismissed outright and this is no different," New York Youth Club attorney Scott Drucker said.
The club's website states it only employs kids over the age of 14 with adult supervision. Nassau police say several of the kids left alone were 11, 12, and 13.
Nassau authorities commended their officers for finding the adults responsible for the children selling candy.
"The Nassau County Police Department supports the actions of its Officers for making these arrests. Although Nassau County supports charitable organizations, these children were left unsupervised for up to 8 hours in unfamiliar areas in the rain and cold with no maps and no contact with the defendants during that time. It does not matter what race or color these children were as they were in need of police assistance since they were placed in situations that could have had a negative outcome. For these reasons the defendants were charged with Endangering the Welfare of a child."
It is illegal in New York State to employ children under 14 years old for most jobs.
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