SPRING HILL — Two Orlando men have been charged with organized fraud and child neglect after Hernando County authorities say they put children to work as solicitors for a bogus charity.
Kendy Senat, 22, and Terence Holiday, 21, sent nine children, ages 12 to 15, door to door in Spring Hill selling cookies, candy, peanut brittle and dog biscuits, claiming to raise money for a nonprofit organization based in Orlando, said sheriff's spokeswoman Denise Moloney.
Though Aware & Active Youth Corp. is registered with the state of Florida "to help better the youth in the central Florida community," according to its articles of incorporation, Senat and Holiday were pocketing most of the money, the Sheriff's Office said. The organization's address is a single-family home, Orange County property records show.
Senat and Holiday drove the children from Orlando and dropped them off in Spring Hill on a mission of solicitation without food, water or any means of communication, deputies said. On Wednesday, one of the children asked for a drink of water at a house on Kenway Street, where the group was knocking on doors from about 1 to 6 p.m., until a resident called the Sheriff's Office.
Aware & Active supposedly was using the money it raised to offer extracurricular activities to members, the children told homeowners.
In reality, the group was buying items from dollar stores and marking up the price, with the juveniles turning over most of their earnings to Senat and Holiday. Each item sold for $8, and all but $2.25 went to Senat and Holiday, authorities said.
The juveniles worked eight to 12 hours a day, earning between $5 and $50, according to a sheriff's news release. The children's parents were told that they were attending a youth convention with Senat and Holiday in Tampa. Altogether, the operation netted about $500 from Hernando residents, detectives said.
State records show that Senat pleaded guilty to robbery in Orange County in 2010. The court withheld adjudication and sentenced him to probation.
Holiday has one other arrest in Florida, a shoplifting charge in Indian River County from last July. The disposition of that case was unclear Thursday.
The investigation is ongoing, Moloney said. The Sheriff's Office asks anyone with information to contact Detective Wayne Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 797-3872.
Senat and Holiday remained in custody Thursday at the Hernando County Detention Center, each in lieu of $45,000 bail.
Times staff writer Tony Marrero and news researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Alison Barnwell can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 754-6114.