WASHINGTON, August 22 (RIA Novosti) – A sinister rumor that Estonian and Latvian students recruited to sell children’s books door-to-door in the United States are actually plotting to kidnap American children is running amok in Odessa, Texas, local media reported this week.
Since 2001, Tennessee-based Southwestern Advantage has recruited students from the Baltic States to sell the firm’s educational books and software door-to-door, the mywesttexas.com news website reported Wednesday. But Estonian salesman Timo Aleste told the paper that a Facebook post claiming that the students were part of a child kidnapping ring went viral after it was posted in Oklahoma earlier in the summer.
At one point the page was being shared 1000 times a day, with the result that it became “too dangerous” for the students to work in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, the paper reported.
Although the publisher successfully lobbied Facebook to remove the post, the rumors followed the students to Texas, where in the city of Midland near Odessa the “kidnappers” fiction mutated into a “Russian spies” tale, website reported.
Police in Odessa have been fielding several calls a day, according to local TV channel CBS 7. The station quoted an email from Corporal Steve LeSueur, communications officer for Odessa Police Department, affirming that the suspicious persons were indeed “European college students selling children's books in Odessa” and that the students had “all of the necessary documentation and permits needed for selling.”
The publisher’s official Facebook page was still receiving complaints about the Baltic booksellers, however. “You should see what people in my community are saying ... nothing good, and your intern is not wanted in our neighborhood,” one comment posted Wednesday said.