Monday, November 11, 2013


This story originally from Action 9 WFTV

An Action 9 investigation is raising serious questions about how a successful drugtreatment program in Sanford is raising money. Teen Challenge wins high praise, but Action 9 uncovered allegations that the program runs a telemarketing operation that could be putting consumers at risk. Action reporter Todd Ulrich found past clients who say they were paid pennies a day to handle the calls. 

Teen Challenge is proud to talk about how it cures drug abusing young men with God-based treatment. But Action 9 has uncovered allegations of a dark side. 

Nineteen-year-old Holden Knight spent three months at the Sanford residential treatment center

When asked,"Did Teen Challenge take advantage of you?" Knight answered, "I felt like they did." 

According to Holden, and others Action 9 interviewed, many Teen Challenge clients must work 40 hours a week in back rooms, on the phones, as telemarketers. Knight says he was trained to pressure sell Dish Network services and timeshares. 

"I would not hang up the phone until they hung up on me. Just so I could get their credit card numbers," said Holden. 

Action 9 tracked down Kyle Kiernan in Michigan, after he spent several weeks at Teen Challenge Sanford, in treatment, and on the phones. 

"It was a way for them to make money," said Kiernan. 

Teen Challenge's treatment philosophy always included work training as discipline that generated income to support the program. 

Kiernan said he knew that, but after paying fees to attend, he didn't expect a 40 hour work week and to be paid the 33 cents a day that he said he was paid. 

Kiernan and Knight both say they were paid 33 cents a day and it felt like slave labor. Action 9 also found consumers could be at risk. Inside the charity's phone rooms, some men convicted of financial crimes, gathered consumers' personal information.

"People's first and last name, credit card numbers," said Kiernan. "Security codes to their credit cards. Basically everything you need to make fraud on a credit card." 

Kiernan claims he saw other men in treatment take credit card lists back to their dorms. Knight said it happened too. 

When asked, "You know one guy took the credit card numbers?" Knight answered, "Yeah." 

Action 9 could not find any state registrations for a telemarketing operation at the Sanford address. 

Program Director Wayne Gray wrote Action 9, saying Teen Challenge students were not "cold calling" anyone. Instead, they worked "customer service" assignments for private companies. So no telemarketing license is required. And it was part of their recovery program. 

But Kiernan said when he worked the phones he didn't tell callers he was in Teen Challenge on a jail diversion program for grand theft and burglary convictions. He just read scripts to sell satellites and time shares and collected credit card numbers. 

Action 9 asked Teen Challenge if its clients with criminal records do collect credit card information. There was no response. 

After Action 9's calls, Florida's Division of Consumer Services, which regulates telemarketing, sent Teen Challenge a letter demanding answers about the phone rooms. 

Dish Network has responded to Action 9's investigation and said an affiliated company has used the Teen Challenge phone rooms, and it thought the system was secure. Dish Network said that contract with the charity is under review

1 comment:

  1. My daughter was in T.C.for over a yr.& she was not her(CUZ she found God)BULLSHIT!!They use PPL?who desperately need help,thus taking the Lords name in vain.I have no time for these Assholes)I don't!!