Recipe for scandal: grape jam, thousands of beaverish Jaycees and allegations of sleight-of-hand bookkeeping, simmer secretly for a couple years, then expose under a spotlight of press and public cynicism.

The result is "Jamscam," a sticky scandal that has titillated North Carolina for half of May, all but wrecked the political ambitions of a young man headed for national civic office, and launched state and federal investigations of the charity-oriented Jaycees organization.

The controversy first emerged in Asheville, a scenic mountain city where the North Carolina chapter of the Jaycees -- claiming the largest membership within the national service organization -- convened May 15 for good times and glad-handing.

They were greeted instead with a finance report that during the past three years, $142,249 in charity funds had been diverted from a tax-exempt Jaycee foundation into noncharitable purposes.

A large chunk of the $142,249 had been raised through statewide sales of grape jelly to help finance a new hospital for victims of burns who require extended treatment. With celebrities such as racing driver Richard Petty promoting the charity project, the Jaycees sold more than 400,000 jars at $1 each.

State leaders of the organization said the money had been transferred into general operations in "a mistaken judgement," and set up a system to make restitution.

But disenchanted Jaycee members claimed that the money had been siphoned for fake or "paper" Jaycee chapters, in an attempt to boost the prestige of the North Carolina organization in the membership-conscious United States Jaycees.

North Carolina Jaycees are due to receive an award as the premier state of the 1970s at the National Convention in Cleveland this month.

But the Raleigh News and Observer newspaper obtained a roster of Jaycee chapters and member names submitted for the national membership that raises questions about the group's membership push. The list contained scores of Jaycee chapters consisting of nothing but numbers (Jaycee No. 1, Jaycee No. 2).

Still other chapters were composed of names duplicated as many as 33 times in 15 different cities from the mountains to the coast. Each bogus chapter contained exactly 20 names or numbers, the minimum required.

Some estimates placed the number of faked memberships as high as 8,000 among the 23,000 members claimed by the North Carolina Jaycees.

The FBI is investigating possible illegal use of telephones and the mails to promote a fraudulent scheme, and the Internal Revenue Service said it would take a hard look at the Jaycees' tax exemption. The state attorney general's office is trying to determine if any state laws were violated by fund diversion.

J. Harold Herring, a fund-raising consultant and former aide to Sen. Jesse A. Helms (R-N.C.), and former state Jaycee president, was running unopposed for national Jaycee president until last week, when James Nehrbass of Oshkosh, Wis., cast an eye on Jamscam and jumped into the contest.

One award-winning Jaycee president from the small town of Faith in the western part of North Carolina said that he had been pressured by Herring into setting up 12 bogus chapters.

Herring has conceded that some clubs were started on "paper" and later were converted to active members, but he has declined to discuss allegations that he pressued local clubs to boost membership rolls.

As one disclosure followed another, Herring reteated into his house in Mount Olive and could not be reached for comment.

And the Jaycees began trying to screw a lid on the erupting jelly jar.

The organization's state executive committee had voted to repay part of the diverted money by mortgaging its headquarters and collecting late dues.

But later disclosures showed that the committee had voted to hold back overhead expenses totalling $50,388 for selling the jelly in violation of the Jaycee bylaws.

"We were misled," said state Jaycee treasurer Jerry C. Moretz of Boone, who conceded that he and others had not read the bylaws before trying to rectify the diversion of money.