'I'm going to get the demon out of you and make you straight': A religious couple who ran a conversion therapy camp have been charged with trafficking underage boys
A grand jury from Texas charged Gary Wiggins, 49 and his wife Meghann, 34, owners of the Joshua Home, with human trafficking, more than a year after allegations of abuse first arose from their nonprofit operation.
The charges came after an extensive, multi-agency probe into allegations of abuse, neglect, labor violations, fraud, licensing violations and human trafficking, KXAN reported.
The couple was arrested in Alabama, and extradited back to Texas where they remain in custody at the Burnet County Jail. They are both being held on $100,000 bond.
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They were told to call him "Brother Gary."
Gary Wiggins, 49, and his wife Megann, 34, ran a religious home that was supposed to be a "safe haven" for troubled boys. But a multi-state investigation alleges that the couple who ran the home were actually trafficking the boys and forcing them into labor.
Earlier this month, a grand jury from Texas charged Gary Wiggins, 49 and his wife Meghann, 34, owners of the Joshua Home, with trafficking more than a year after allegations of abuse first arose from their nonprofit operation, Austin TV station KXAN reported.
The charges came after an extensive, multi-agency probe into allegations of abuse, neglect, labor violations, fraud, licensing violations, and human trafficking, KXAN reported.
Read more: 20 staggering facts about human trafficking in the US
Accusations against Gary Wiggins for abusive behavior arose when the couple first lived in Alabama, where he also operated a boy's home, the Blessed Hope Boys Academy, according to The Kansas City Star. Law enforcement raided the Alabama home in 2016, after several boys who were resided in the home had escaped and told authorities they were punished with forced exercise, solitary confinement, and withholding of food.
Lucas Greenfield, who identifies as gay, told police that he was beaten by Wiggins at Blessed Hope. Greenfeld was featured in an investigation on gay conversion therapy by "20/20" and said Wiggins told him "I'm going to get the demon out of you and make you straight," The Star reported.
Rodney Pinkston, a former camp counselor at Blessed Hope, told 20/20 he witnessed Wiggins taunting the boys. "During his preaching sometimes Brother Gary would say to the boys, 'That's just queer. What are you, queer? You a f-----, son?'"
The allegations against Wiggins were not enough for authorities to press charges at the time, however.
After closing Blessed Hope, the couple opened Joshua Home in Pineville, Missouri. Childcare programs in Missouri that are operated by religious organizations don't need a license, so inspections or regulation aren't required unless the state receives reports of child abuse. Investigations into the Joshua Home began after a local sheriff alerted Texas authorities last year that the couple planned on relocating to Texas, KXAN reported.
KXAN reported that the trafficking in the Joshua Home reportedly occurred between May 17, 2018, and July 25, 2018, according to the indictment. Authorities removed eight boys, aged from 10 to 17, from the Bertram, Texas, home in late July, but the couple relocated back to Alabama before the investigation began, the Advocate reported.
Authorities tracked down the Wiggins' in Alabama earlier this month — a year after the Bertram raid — and brought them into custody in Burnet County, Texas.
The Wiggins' remain in custody at the Burnet County Jail. They are both being held on $100,000 bond.
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