HOLMBERG: At age 15, working as an operative – a mole – for the state

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CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WTVR) --Imagine being just 20 years old, already finished with your career as an operative – a mole – for the state.

Jessica Young was just 15 when she became as asset for the state – at $10 an hour – to catch merchants selling alcohol or cigarettes to minors.

“I went in and tried to purchase it,” she recalled from her parents Chesterfield County home while nursing a broken leg from a climbing accident. “If they asked for my ID, I showed them my real drivers license, issued (by) DMV. It wasn’t fake or anything. If they sold to me I gave the tobacco/alcohol to the agents, then I helped them fill out a form, and if necessary, I went to court with them.”

Most stores did the right thing. She’d make a buy maybe one and five stops, maybe even less, she said.

Jessica remembers her first mission: trying to buy a pack of smokes.

“I was shaking, I was so nervous,” she recalled.  But after that, it was all very routine. Every now and then a clerk would yell at her for trying to buy underage. Sometimes, they would try to keep her license.

“But I knew I was safe,” she said. There were two plain-clothed ABC agents with her, one in the store and one outside. Both armed.

Like all operatives, there’s lots of down time, driving to different locations, waiting for court.

What did she do then? “Homework,” Jessica said.

And like all good operatives, she believed in the mission.

“That’s why I like doing this job, because I felt like I was helping prevent kids from getting it underage and preventing them from hurting themselves or other people. I thought it was really important.”

So how did the state zero in on this under-aged asset?

“My mom, she works for the ABC Board.”

Melissa Wood is an administrative technician for ABC’s region 6 enforcement. She said the state is looking for a few good 15-year-olds to train. Apply at your local ABC District office.

“Anybody,” she said. “We just prefer teen-agers who look younger than their actual age.” \

Why is that important?

“We don’t want the people to think it’s entrapment,” Melissa Wood said. “Kids use their regular IDs. They want them to look young. The boys aren’t allowed to have beards, girls don’t wear makeup.” They’ve set it up so it’s obvious their buyers are underage.

Jessica Wood was an underage operative for ABC for two years. What did she do with all that money?

“I save some of it,” she admitted. “Most of it I spent on books or video games.”

So what is she going to be now that she’s finished with college. A spy? A secret agent?

No, Jessica wants to be a 7th grade English teacher. And, she added, “a librarian.”