Eight juvenile males have been removed from a home for “troubled boys” in Burnet County after state and local agencies conducted an investigation into abuse
A couple who ran a religious boarding school for “troubled boys” in Burnet County, Texas, has been busted on child trafficking charges, authorities said.
In a statement released Monday, the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office said that 49-year-old Gary Dwayne Wiggins and 34-year-old Meghann Shereen Wiggins were in police custody, after being indicted by a grand jury.
Pastor Gary Wiggins, sometimes referred to as Brother Gary, and his wife ran Joshua Home, a facility that operated in Bertram, a city located 44 miles northwest of Austin.
The school was a place where parents could send their troubled teens to be straightened out through hard work and Christian education.
In July, 2018 eight boys, ages 10 to 17, were removed from the facility, after investigations of abuse surfaced.
Mehgann and Gary Wiggins who ran boarding school for “troubled boys” in Burnet County, Texas, has been arrested – charged with human trafficking and labor violations
Agencies sat both local and state agencies looked into allegations that included neglect, labor violations, fraud, licensing violations, and human trafficking. After performing a search warrant, they gathered evidence that led to the immediate shut down of the facility, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Investigators were concerned that the boys’ work at a moving company and a lawn care company operated by The Joshua Home Ministries could constitute abuse and human trafficking, Sheriff Calvin Boyd said at a news conference.
That wasn’t the first instance that Wiggins got in trouble with the law. He ran similar facilities in Alabama and Missouri, where he got permission from parents to “discipline” their sons through hard work.
The Kansas City Star reported that in Joshua’s Home’s now-defunct website, an unidentified parent credited the couple “with turning their sons’ lives around through Christian study, prayer and love.”
In Alabama, where Wiggins ran a similar facility before relocating to Missouri, the Blessed Hope Boys Academy, several boys who ran away accused him and other staff members to put them through hair-raising punishments such as placing the boys in solitary confinement or refusing to give them food.
In 2017, former recruit Lucas Greenfield, whose mother sent him there because he was gay, told ABC’s 20/20 that Wiggins would beat the boys, and tell them “I’m going to get the demon out of you and make you straight.”
The Wigginsed were arrested without incident in Escambia County, Ala., after the Burnet County grand jury indicted the couple on Aug. 6. They waived extradition and were transported back to Texas to fight the charges.
Their attorney, Austin Shell, plans to take the case to trial. “Before anyone jumps to conclusions they ought to wait to see what evidence the District Attorney has,” Shell told CBS Austin.
Gary and Meghann Wiggins were were indicted on one count each of human trafficking charges. A bond amount of $100,000 has been set for each.
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