Gary and Meghann Wiggins Charged with Alleged Human Trafficking
A Texas couple with a history of running gay conversion programs have been indicted on human trafficking charges for allegedly forcing the underage boys they looked after in a religious home for troubled children into labor.
Gary Wiggins, 49, and his 34-year-old wife Meghann were indicted on August 6, a year after eight boys they looked after in The Joshua Home – a Christian non-profit which they ran in Bertram, Texas – were removed from their care.
According to authorities, the pair had been putting the boys to work at a lawn maintenance company and punishing them cruelly by making them stare at walls if they misbehaved.
Gary Wiggins has a history of abuse allegations and previously had homes in Alabama and Missouri shut down amid claims he beat boys with belts to ‘get the demons out of them and make them straight’.
Despite being reported to authorities several times over the last three years, he was charged for the first time earlier this month, a year after eight boys aged between 10 and 17 were removed from the home and it was shut down.
Gary Wiggins, 49, and his 34-year-old wife Meghann were indicted on August 6, a year after eight boys they looked after in The Joshua Home – a Christian non-profit which they ran in Bertram, Texas – were removed from their care
Authorities have spent the last year investigating.
The Wiggins had been running the Joshua Home in Missouri but after allegations of abuse were raised, they moved it to Texas last year.
The home is affiliated with The Joshua Home Ministries, a Christian nonprofit organization which helps the homeless.
On its website, anonymous parents thanked Wiggins for looking after their sons. They described him as a ‘brother’ and said he and his wife had helped their children through prayer.
However former students of a different home Wiggins had run previously in Alabama reported that he had been abusive towards them and was not to be trusted.
In 2016, police raided that home – the Blessed Hope Boys Academy – after many of the boys ran away.
Some said he’d beaten them and told them he was going to ‘get the demons’ out of them to make them straight.
It was included in an ABC 20/20 investigation into gay conversion programs in 2017 after one former student claimed Wiggins had tried the ‘therapies’ on him.
Wiggins described himself as a recovered drug addict and alcoholic online and said he’d been saved by Christianity.
When questioned by police about allegedly hitting the boys, Wiggins admitted he’d ‘swatted’ the boys but said their parents had given him permission to do it.
Wiggins and his wife evaded arrest by uprooting their operation several times between multiple states over the last few years
Twenty-two boys from that home were removed and it was shut down but Wiggins was not charged. Instead, he moved from Alabama to Missouri and set up The Joshua Home.
When the allegations of abuse followed him there, he uprooted the operation again, this time taking it to Texas.
Missourian authorities alerted their Texan counterparts to the pair and an investigation was launched into their practices.
Police in Missouri said their hands had been tied because the childcare programs operated by religious organizations are not bound by inspections or regulation because they do not have to be licensed.
After being contacted by Missourian police, Texan authorities raided the Joshua Home last July.
Eight boys aged between 10 and 17 were removed but Wiggins and his wife were not charged.
All of the boys were from other states and were put into the custody of Child Protective Services after being removed the house last year.
Many have since been reunited with their families.
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