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Local Father Wants Magazine Sales Crews Regulated

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

One local father says this time of year marks high recruiting season for traveling magazine sales crews. The Verona man says the industry promises young people an adventurous lifestyle but the job can come with a deadly cost.

"Malinda had a dream," Phil Ellenbecker says.

Instead, Ellenbecker says his daughter got caught up in a nightmare.
"She didn't have a clue what it was about."

All the 18-year-old knew was the ad for the job promised "absolute fun." "Travel the united states, free room and board make $500 a week. Who wouldn't want to do something like that?" Ellenbecker says.

Two days into that "dream job" his daughter died in this van crash near Janesville. "There were four minors in the van in the Janesville accident. These kids never should have been there, this never should have happened," he says.

Seven young people died, five suffered severe injuries. All were part of a traveling magazine sales crew that goes door to door.

"There's been so many deaths related to this industry I can't believe it's not regulated more," another father says.

The Roberts lost their 16-year-old son Marshall Lee.

"He had so much potential there was so many things he could've become and that's not gonna happen now," his mother Deanna Roberts says.

Families say legislation could help prevent tragedies like the one that ended their children's lives. They say this senate bill is a start.

"There are other states watching us right now. That bill will set a model," Ellenbecker says.

The bill bars companies from hiring minors and makes background checks mandatory.

Ellenbecker says, "definitely managers and drivers because these are people who drive the crews."

It also considers young people employees of the company. "Right now, being they're independent contractors there's a gap ... and that's been intentionally set up that way so if a kid gets in trouble, the company's not responsible.

But Ellenbecker says his website shows how much responsibility the industry bears. It lists crime after crime, accident after accident.

"It's selling and exploitation without legal entanglement," he says.
Until, Ellenbecker says comprehensive legislation makes it otherwise.
"I'm gonna do this until the day I die," Ellenbecker says.

Ellenbecker welcomes anyone seeking more information to log to his website at

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