Burnet County Sheriff Calvin Boyd said eight boys were removed from Joshua Home Ministries in Bertram after allegations of abuse there.
Joshua Home operates as a rehabilitation center for troubled boys, but the sheriff said the facility was not licensed with the State of Texas.
“They do have to be licensed and that was one of the issues in the search warrant,” Boyd said.
There have not been any charges filed against Gary Wiggins, the owner of the facility, but the sheriff expects there will be by the time the investigation is complete.
A search warrant executed Wednesday states the operators of the center were being investigated for abuse, neglect, licensing violations and human trafficking due to child labor violations. After one of the eight boys in the ministry ran away, Child Protective Services got involved.
“CPS removed the juveniles. The boys range in age from 10-17,” said Boyd.
Wiggins' attorney, Eddie Shell, said Joshua Home moved to FM 243 in Bertram in May to property owned by Wiggins’ in-laws.
Shell said Wiggins was unaware that he was under investigation in Missouri when he moved the ministry to Texas. However, Wiggins did contact the sheriff in Missouri after he learned of a possible investigation there.
“The sheriff told them straight out, ‘You are not under investigation. We didn't know you were out there. We did check you out,’ and there's no criminal charges that were filed. There's none that will be filed,” Shell said.
Shell said he does not believe the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office will find any proof of abuse.
“Everything that I know is that there's not been any abuse,” Shell said.
Shell believes Wiggins had permission from all the boys' parents to take custody of them and discipline them.
“Mr. Wiggins did tell me that he had permission from each and every parent to use corporal punishment. He said he rarely, if ever, did that and that if he did it, it was completely appropriate,” said Shell.
Andrew Nasiatka said his brother was one of the boys removed during Wednesday’s raid on the facility. Andrew said his 11-year-old brother was never abused by Wiggins and he never saw any evidence of wrongdoing at Joshua Home.
"If that home was still open, I would not be bringing my brother home right now. I wouldn't, because it's a great place for him to be," Nasiatka said.
Shell said Joshua Home has shut down and will remain closed at least until the investigation is complete.
“They're very devastated. They enjoyed working with the boys, they believe they did some good things and I think a lot of the boys will miss them,” said Shell.
The sheriff said all of the children have been reunited with their families at this point. If Wiggins tries to leave the area, the State will issue a warrant to find him.
The Burnet County Sheriff's Office is asking people with information about the ministry to call them.