TAMPA, Fla. - Teenagers have been selling food in Tampa for what they believe will be college scholarships.
But the I-Team has learned the charity they’re working for is not providing what the kids say they’ve been promised.
And the man running it all has a questionable past.
We tracked the leader of the charity to Orlando. We found the address on his business license and his Department of Corrections record, where we learned he's currently on probation for robbery.
“We have some Chips Ahoy cookies, some Crunch and Munch,” one of the boys says, describing the items he is selling from a large plastic container.
The items, which could typically be purchased for a couple of dollars each, are being sold door-to-door, in parking lots and along sidewalks throughout Florida by an organization called Positive Teens of Florida.
When we encountered the teens, they were peddling their food in a Best Buy parking lot off Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa.
The teens said they were not paid, but sold the goods to try to raise money for college scholarships, which they say were promised by Positive Teens founder Olajuwon Jackson months after he was evicted from his apartment last year.
“I've raised $7,000 in my scholarship funds,” said one boy.
Another teen said his fund was up to $10,000.
The Orlando-based charity is currently not recognized by the IRS as a tax-exempt organization.
No adults were around when we met the teens.
The teens say they were picked up from their homes in Orlando earlier in the day, then dropped off in Tampa, where most had never been.
The teens learned from us their leader is on probation for robbery.
Jackson wasn't home, but his mother was. She says the children are lying about her son's charity.
“There's no scholarships or anything going on. These kids work for the summer, so they don't have any trouble, so they don't have to go out and steal from the stores, so he helps them,” said Monique Jackson.
She called Jackson, who denied his teens were in Tampa, even though we identified some on his Positive Teens Facebook page.
“I don't give no scholarships or anything like that,” said Olajuwon Jackson, who said all the kids in his program knew he was a convicted felon.
He says the teens sometimes get gift cards, meals and entertainment opportunities.
We tried to get Jackson to agree to an on-camera interview, but he declined the opportunity, saying he was too busy with his work crew.
The City of Tampa said Positive Teens of Florida does not have a business license allowing the organization to sell anything in the city limits.