Couple who ran ‘gay conversion camps’ arrested for human trafficking
A couple who ran a gay conversion therapy camp for “troubled boys” are facing a felony indictment for human trafficking in Texas.
Gary Wiggins, 49, and his wife Meghann Wiggins, 34, have been charged with intentionally trafficking four underage boys “through force, fraud or coercion” and making them “engage in forced labour or services”, reports local media KXAN.
The pair ran the Joshua Home in Burnet County, a Christian-based residential home for children.
In July 2018, eight boys aged between 10 and 17 were removed from the home following abuse allegations, the Austin Statesman reported last year.
Since then, agencies have been investigating accusations of “abuse, neglect, labour violations, fraud, licensing violations, and human trafficking”.
Wiggins’ lawyer Eddie Shell the Statesman that the parents of the boys, who lived outside of Texas, had allegedly given permission for the boys to be disciplined. This would take the form of domestic work around the home.
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“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.
The couple previously ran similar gay conversion therapy institutions in Alabama and Missouri, according to reports.
The Blessed Hope Boys Academy in Robertsdale, Alabama, was raided in 2016 after several boys ran away and told authorities they had been punished with forced exercise, solitary confinement and withholding of food.
In 2017, one boy who attended Blessed Hope Boys Academy told ABC’s 20/20 he had been beaten by Gary Wiggins, who told him: “I’m going to get the demon out of you and make you straight.”
The home was then moved to Pineville, Missouri, before shutting down and moving to Texas.
The couple is currently being held at Burnet County Jail with bond of $100,000.