A husband and wife who ran a home for troubled boys in Texas have been arrested a year after the home was raided and eight boys were removed, reports say.
Gary Wiggins, 49, and his wife Meghann Wiggins, 34, have been charged with intentionally trafficking four underage boys “through force, fraud or coercion,” making them “engage in forced labor or services,” KXAN reported.
The couple operated Joshua Home, a Christian-based residential home for “troubled boys,” KEYE reported.
In July 2018, eight boys ages 10 to 17 were removed from the Bertram-area home following abuse allegations, the Austin Statesman reported last year. In the year since, agencies have been investigating accusations of “abuse, neglect, labor violations, fraud, licensing violations, and human trafficking.”
The boys’ parents, who all lived out of state, had given Gary Wiggins permission to discipline the boys who often did yard work around the home, Wiggins’ lawyer Eddie Shell said, according to the paper.
“I know the allegations were that the boys were working without pay, but I don’t think there was any illegal activity going on,” he said, according to the Statesman.
Prior to Texas, the home had operated in both Alabama and Missouri, the Kansas City Star reported in 2018. The home had been raided in Robertsdale, Alabama, in 2016 — known then as the Blessed Hope Boys Academy — “after several boys ran away and told authorities that staff had punished them with forced exercise, solitary confinement and withholding of food.”
The home was then moved to Pineville, Missouri, where it shut down and moved to Texas after a sheriff in Missouri caught wind of the Wiggins’ reputation, according to the report.
The couple is being held at Burnet County Jail with bond of $100,000, KXAN reported.