Rossen Reports

Hidden cameras reveal adults buying alcohol for underage 'teens'

Feb. 26, 2014 at 7:47 AM ET

Video: TODAY’s national investigative correspondent reveals exclusive hidden-camera footage of adults caught buying alcohol for over-21 actors posing as underage teens. Rossen confronts the adults over their actions.

Spring break is coming up, and that means underage kids looking to score alcohol.

Underage drinking can turn tragic. Each year, 4,700 people under the age of 21 die from causes related to drinking, from alcohol poisoning to drunk driving accidents. And authorities say it's often an adult supplying the booze.

To test that assertion, TODAY set up an experiment on a Friday afternoon in suburban New Jersey, wiring a liquor store with a hidden camera and hiring two actors, both over 21, to pose as underage teens.

The actors approached nearly two dozen customers to make purchases for them, and none of the men gave them alcohol. But, surprisingly, several women were a different story.

"Please, do you think you can get me a six-pack?" one of the actors begged a female customer.

"You're going to get me in trouble," the woman replied. But she went inside and grabbed the beer, and gave the fake teens the alcohol, warning, "You guys don't get in trouble!"

Confronted afterward, the woman admitted buying the beer despite thinking the actors were underage. "What are you gonna do?" she said. "They're going to do it whether I buy it or someone else is going to buy it; they'll find a way."

Some women did say no to the fake teens, but it wasn't long before another said yes. "I'll get in trouble, these people know me here," she said initially. "I'm sorry, guys."

But suddenly she changed her mind, buying the beer and making a discreet handoff. Afterward, when TODAY asked her why, she said, “Because they looked old enough. I thought they just didn’t have ID. Next time, I’ll know.”

A third woman agreed to buy a six-pack of Bud Light, told the actors to “hurry up,” and said that if they ever got her in trouble for making the purchase, “I will hunt you down like a dog.”

She went into the store and emerged with a six pack, and some advice, for the young actors.

“Don’t hang out in front of the liquor store,” she said. “You gotta be a little farther away next time.”

When TODAY approached her about the purchase, she said, “Look mister, get away from me. With all your cameras, goodbye?”

Jan Withers, the president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was shocked when she saw the video footage of the women at the liquor store. 

“I found that just amazing,” said Withers, whose 15-year-old daughter was killed by an underage drinker who got behind the wheel. “I expect them to be more protective, more cautious.”

Said Withers, “It’s dangerous, it’s not fun and games, and we need to protect our kids.”

For information on talking to your kids about drinking, consult Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

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