Crime

Christian couple who ran religious boarding school busted for human trafficking

A couple who owned and operated a religious boarding school in Alabama were arrested and transferred to Texas to face human trafficking charges, AL.com reports.

Gary Dwayne Wiggins, 49, and his wife Meghann Shereen Wiggins, 34, were arrested on August 6 after they were each indicted on one count of human trafficking by a grand jury. According to the indictment by the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office in Texas, the couple forced four underage boys to work for a lawn care they owned.

The charges stem from a year-long investigation into allegations of abuse, neglect, labor violations, fraud and human trafficking at the Joshua Home and other businesses owned by Gary Wiggins. In July 2018, Texas authorities got a search warrant for the Joshua Home, Joshua Home Lawn Care and Joshua Home Moving.

Authorities later removed eight boys ages 10 to 17 from the Joshua Home, according to local news outlets. All the boys were from out of state and were later returned to their parents or guardians.

This isn’t the first time the Wiggins’ practices have come under scrutiny. In 2016, the Alabama Department of Human Resources and Baldwin County law enforcement raided another Christian boarding school the couple operated, removing 22 boys ranging in ages 8 to 17 after some claimed they were being abused. Local news reports at the time said that two boys had escaped the school and ran to a neighbor’s house claiming that staff at the Blessed Hope Boys Academy would lock them in closets for hours, deprive them of food, and force them to exercise for hours.

No charges were ever brought against the Wiggins in regards to the 2016 incident.

The couple was being held on $100,000 bond each.

Featured image via Burnet County Sheriff’s Office

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