Bertram boys' home has long history of dubious activity

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By Alexandria Randolph
HLN Correspondent

After criminal investigations resulted in the raid of a ministerial boys’ home last week, details emerging about the ministry and those who run it are only leading to more questions.

The Joshua Home in the 2500 block of Farm to Market Road 243 is under investigation by local and state authorities over allegations of “abuse, neglect, labor violations, fraud, licensing violations and human trafficking,” stated a Burnet County Sheriff’s Department release on Wednesday.

Sheriff Michael Hall of McDonald County, Missouri, gave Burnet County Sheriff’s Office a heads up when he heard the facility had relocated to the area.

“He called a few weeks before (we executed the warrant) and talked to our investigators,” said Burnet County Sheriff Calvin Boyd.

Hall could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Boyd said his deputies began investigating the organization and became concerned that teenage boys at the home were being used illegally as labor for several affiliated organizations, including Joshua Home Lawn Care, Joshua Home Movers and JJW Home Services.

“There have been no charges or arrests yet,” Boyd said on Tuesday morning.

Of the eight boys that were removed during the execution of a warrant at the facility, one remained in the custody of Child Protective Services as of Tuesday morning, officials said.

“One child is returning to his parents tomorrow,” said Lisa Block, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services media specialist said Monday.

Block could not comment on what type of care was provided to the boys that were removed from the facility, but Texas DFPS Spokesperson Patrick Crimmins stated that the role of CPS during the raid last week was “strictly supportive. CPS representatives were there taking care of any of the boys that needed care and attention.”

Tax records show the organization is under the ownership of Gary Wiggins.

History of the facility

This is not the first run-in with the law that Wiggins, Joshua Home founder and director, has had in the past several years. The Joshua Home, then under the name Blessed Hope Boys Academy, was formerly located in Robertsdale, Alabama. According to AL News and WBRC FOX News, in December 2016, the facility was raided by local law enforcement and 22 boys were removed following reports of child abuse that included withholding food, locking children in closets and forcing exercise for hours at a time.

According to information on the Blessed Hope Boys Academy website, which has since been shut down, Wiggins is a born-again Christian and recovering alcoholic and drug addict who felt called to open a Christian boarding school for troubled teens, AL News reported. He and his wife, Meghann, operated the Blessed Hope Boys Academy, later The Joshua Home.

Defense attorney Jeremiah Giles, whom Wiggins’ retained during the Roberstdale investigation, was contacted but could not be reached as of press time.

Robertsdale Police and the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Department were contacted about the December 2016 investigation, but could not be reached as of press time. . . .

Find stories like these and more comprehensive coverage of northern Burnet County in the Burnet Bulletin. To subscribe to the newspaper, call 512-756-6136.

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