Tampa Bay door-to-door magazine sellers on a mission - WFLA News Channel 8

Tampa Bay door-to-door magazine sellers on a mission

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© Land O' Lakes resident Janet Morgan listens to a magazine sales pitch from a traveling MD Networks magazine crew that showed up at her door © Land O' Lakes resident Janet Morgan listens to a magazine sales pitch from a traveling MD Networks magazine crew that showed up at her door
Kealy Landes Kealy Landes
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Janet Morgan says she made one thing perfectly clear to the two adult teenagers from MD Networks who recently knocked on her door in Land O Lakes. She wasn’t interested in buying any magazine subscriptions.

"And he said ‘oh no ma’am, we’re not selling magazines," Morgan said.

But she eventually found out that’s exactly what they were selling, along with gift baskets if Morgan was so inclined. She was not. “They were definitely trying to sell me,” Morgan said.

Another resident in the same neighborhood was approached by a different sales team from MD Networks the same day. “He spoke so fast I didn’t realize what he was saying,” said Bob Thompson.

The two sales teams were part of a larger crew organized and transported to the neighborhood by MD Networks, a for-profit company based in Colorado. The teens told these residents they were working toward scholarships, earning points for a free vacation in the Bahamas, and even helping the military.

“So many points awarded if I donated to troops overseas,” said Thompson.

“I don’t know if it was for tuition or books or whatever, but he said it was a thousand dollars to use in school,” Morgan said.

But the best selling point—the one that almost moved her to write a check, was the opportunity to donate magazine subscriptions to the children at “St. Jude.”

A spokeswoman for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis says she’s never heard of MD Networks, but this isn’t the first time a traveling magazine sales crew like this one has invoked the hospital’s name without permission in order to sell magazines.

The day after Eight On Your Side inquired with the hospital, authorities in Alabama issued a consumer alert about another company using references to St. Jude and other charities in order to motivate consumers into buying magazines.

The 30-year-old man who runs MD Networks, Kealy Landes, has a criminal arrest history in multiple states for offenses ranging from drugs, to peddling and concealed weapons.

In his most recent brush with the law, authorities in Utah arrested Landes last year for an outstanding warrant. It’s not clear what charges that warrant stemmed from.

Eight on Your Side approached Landes at a Tampa motel recently where he was loading up his crews for another day of door-to-door magazine sales. He refused to discuss his business practices but asked us to submit a list of written questions.

We sent questions to Landes in three separate emails and have not received any response. His sales crew has since left the Tampa area.

MD Networks is just one of many traveling sales organizations making the rounds in Florida this time of year according to Daniel Gibbons, a member of Landes’ crew.

“Do you know how many groups there are that are do what we do—there’s hundreds of them,” Gibbons said. “The crews come to Florida for the winter, obviously. It’s warm.”

Maybe so. Eight on Your side is starting to get reports of other direct sales organizations using similar magazine sales pitches in neighborhoods and parking lots ranging from Land O Lakes to Brandon and Bradenton.

The groups typically employ young adults who say they are earning points toward a scholarship or vacation and sometimes offer consumers the option of donating subscriptions to a good cause, such as a hospital or troops overseas, if they don’t want to buy magazines for themselves.

The young man who knocked on Morgan’s door refused to give his name, but said he was with “Christian Community.” When Eight On Your Side pressed for specifics, he became angry. “You’re acting confused because you’re stupid,” the teenager said. “You’re acting stupid right now to get me in trouble for something I don’t need to get in trouble for.”

The Pasco Sheriff’s Office dispatched a deputy in response to consumer complaints by other residents about other MD Networks sales crews working the same neighborhood that day, but they were gone by the time the deputy arrived.

Landes and his associates transport his sales crews to and from neighborhoods in a pair of white vans.

Anybody coming to the door you want to be very cautions of who you’re dealing with,” said Doug Templeton, Chief Investigator for Pinellas Justice and Consumer services.

“A lot of times the pitch may include I need this to get to college, I need this to get to school,” Templeton said.

The crew from MD Networks refused to leave any company literature with Morgan or several neighbors they solicited that same day.

“That’d be another red flag that you want to be cautious of” Templeton said. “If they’re not willing to part ways with those materials they’re soliciting with, that would be a concern.”

Templeton said consumers always have the option to cancel magazine sales contracts within three days of the transaction, and every sales receipt must include that right.

After that, consumers who still have a complaint can contact the local consumer agencies such as Pinellas Justice and Consumer Services http://www.pinellascounty.org/consumer/complaint.htm Hillsborough Consumer Protection http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/index.aspx?NID=557

the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Consumer-Services/Consumer-Services/Consumer-Protection/File-a-Complaint, or do what homeowners in Janet Morgan’s neighborhood did: call the police.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.

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