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State probes Smithtown youth club after new arrests

The state Department of Labor is renewing a probe of New York Youth Club, a Smithtown nonprofit that has drawn the attention of local law enforcement for allowing young members to sell candy unsupervised in winter weather.

"We're going to be taking another look at this case to see whether labor law violations have occurred," DOL spokeswoman Karen Williamson said Monday.

In 2008, the state charged the club with having employees under age 14, not having work papers for older solicitors and improper record keeping. The club settled and paid a fine of $2,100, Williamson said.

The club argued its young solicitors were volunteers. Regulators deemed them employees. In such cases, Williamson said, the difference can rest on whether the work in question is managed by others or involves compensation.

The Rev. E. Edward Robinson II, the club's spokesman, said Monday he welcomed the state's inquiry and that his group has nothing to hide. He charged Nassau police with harassing the club - which is mostly black and Latino - and said the group was considering legal action.

"We are being discriminated against by the Nassau County Police Department," said Robinson, 28. "They don't want minority kids in these neighborhoods."

On Saturday, Nassau police charged a club team leader, Jule Huston, 26, with 11 counts of misdemeanor child endangerment after several children under his supervision, including a 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy, were found walking the street in freezing weather without supervision.

Two weeks ago, another team leader was charged with three counts of misdemeanor child endangerment under similar circumstances. Two arrests of club team leaders, with a total of 12 endangerment charges, were also made last February, said Nassau Det. Sgt. Tony Repalone.

Huston was also charged with resisting arrest Saturday, as was an older member of his team, Jeremy Carston, 17, of Brentwood, who went with him to the Fifth Precinct in Elmont. Carston said that unprovoked, he was Maced by police and hit with a baton. Huston said he was shoved by an officer.

Repalone would not comment on those allegations, but said the racism charges are absurd.

"Our only concern is the welfare of those children," Repalone said. "We have had several instances with this particular group over the last couple of months and it's consistent that they are not providing adequate supervision."

Angel Smith, a single mother from Brentwood who has three boys in the club, defended the group, which organizes trips to amusement parks and other activities. Without the club, said Smith, 34, "either they would be stuck at home or vandalizing things like half the children in my neighborhood do."Parents should know

The Child Labor Coalition says many door-to-door youth peddling operations are nothing more than scams that exploit young people, and advises parents:

Your child won't make much money and these programs are not meant to help your child.

Your child may be unsupervised and work alone in unfamiliar neighborhoods.

You are entrusting your child to strangers who may have suspended licenses and unsafe vehicles.

Source: National Consumers League

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