WOODSTOCK, Ga. (AP) — Prosecutors in Georgia have charged 14 people with recruiting poor children from Atlanta to sell candy and food door-to-door in the Atlanta suburbs, alleging that it was all a scheme to funnel money to a notorious U.S. street gang.
The group set up a fake charity — Georgia Peach Youth Club of America Inc. — to fund the gang’s criminal enterprises, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said.
The indictment names 14 people on charges including human trafficking, racketeering, criminal street gang activity, charity fraud, and money laundering, Carr said.
Money raised through the charity funded operations of the Nine Trey Bloods, a subset of the Los Angeles-based United Blood Nation, he said in a statement Tuesday. The Nine Trey Bloods initially formed in New York City’s Riker’s Island jail in the early 1970s, according to the FBI.
The indictment, returned by a grand jury in Cherokee County, a suburban area northwest of Atlanta where prosecutors say the children were taken to knock on doors, makes no mention of how much money the children allegedly raised through the candy sales.
The Georgia Peach Youth Club describes itself on Facebook as a work and recreational program for teens against gun violence and drugs. A phone number listed for the program was not working Wednesday, and the group did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The defendants “recruited children from economically disadvantaged areas of Atlanta using posters, word of mouth and a website that advertised prizes and trips for the children,” the indictment states.
“These children were transported in vans to numerous counties in Georgia,” it states. “Some minor children were dropped off to solicit funds for hours without adult supervision.”
The scheme began to unravel when a team of investigators and attorneys with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office — which oversees charities — discovered that children were being coerced to go door-to-door asking for donations. The agency referred the case to law enforcement officers who furthered the investigation.
“Using children to wheedle money from generous Georgians to finance gang activity is unforgivable,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement. “I’m proud that the skills of our professional investigators sparked what became a multiagency crackdown and will mean protecting children and donors from a horrible scam.”