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Online 'community service' raises red flags in Metro courts

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

The Channel 4 I-Team has uncovered criminals have been offered a way around their sentences without ever leaving home - and it prompted a warning to all Metro judges, probation officers and the district attorney.

Murfreesboro-based Logan Social Services offers the promise of online community service to defendants that is as simple as a few clicks of the mouse - no roadside trash pickup or hard labor required.

Metro court officials have now sent out a warning letter for local judges to be on the lookout for anyone trying to use this service, which claims on its front page that it is court approved.

The Channel 4 I-Team wanted to see just how it works, so we enrolled for $30 and started doing our own self-imposed 10 hours of community service online.

Users can choose from topics including distracted driving, stress reduction or safety belt use, but they don't even have to read the course instructions. All they could do is scroll to the bottom and click submit.

Then, in only a matter of seconds, the hours needed to complete the course can fly by. In fact, you can burn a whole hour by just submitting feedback for the service itself.

To move even faster, just go to what's called "fundraising hours." In our experiment session, we had two hours left to complete the course, but for an extra $6 a user can allegedly donate to charity while burning online hours.

It's important to note the website does tell users to have a judge approve their work before paying for the service, but it may take some digging on the website to find that recommendation.

In Davidson County, the courts will not accept this form of so-called community service.

"It's not what it says it is. It's not community service. It doesn't meet the definition of community service work for any court," said Bob Green, director of the Metro Probation Department.

The Channel 4 I-Team wanted to speak with the man listed as Logan Social Services' executive director, William Smith, but the numbers listed on the website went to voicemail boxes that were not accepting new messages.

Then, we drove to the address listed on the website, but it took us to a unit in a Murfreesboro apartment complex. Nobody was home.

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