WWASP Fails – Florida Mom Prevails (Jury Rules in favor of Mom)
WESTON, Florida (August 8, 2004). Corporate giant, World Wide Association of Specialty Programs (WWASP), came after a single Florida mom, Sue Scheff, and her organization Parents Universal Resource Experts (P.U.R.E.), because she spoke out about the company's alleged abuses against children. When she learned her daughter and other children had been abused in their programs, she fought back.
WWASP came after her through fear, intimidation, and the high cost of litigation, when she tried to speak out by reporting fraud, child abuse, and child neglect against their programs both in the U.S. and other countries. They brought three charges against this mother and her organization - defamation, civil conspiracy, and false advertising.
As a result of her tenacity in seeking the truth, along with her attorney, Richard Henriksen, Salt Lake City, Utah:
WWASP's attempt to silence this mother failed.
Sue Scheff and P.U.R.E. prevailed.
Enlarged photos and video clips from 48 Hours, Primetime, Dateline, and Inside Edition were shown to jurors. Tears welled up in some of their eyes as they watched the following accounts of child abuse and neglect:
Video clips were shown of children who were locked in dog cages in the hot Mexican sun at WWASP's High Impact program in Mexico, sometimes for days at a time. High Impact was shut down by the Mexican government for allegations of child neglect and abuse. Although Robert Lichfield, Ken Kay, and Karr Farnsworth will claim High Impact is not a WWASP program, former employees and parents testified they were. An employee testified she was asked not to divulge the program's association with WWASP – she further testified she traveled to High Impact with Ken Kay, president of WWASP, who specifically warned her against divulging its association with WWASP.
Amberly Knight was the former Director of Dundee Ranch in Costa Rica. She testified that a girl was raped there and her skull was cracked. She further testified children at Dundee Ranch were punished with food deprivation and were kept in a small isolation room where they were made to kneel and lay on concrete for up to 14 hours a day. Dundee Ranch was closed in May 2003 after she reported WWASP's alleged child abuse to Costa Rican protective services. This resulted in the arrest of Narvin Lichfield.
Photos were shown of children who were locked inside The ISO Box (Isolation Box), a wooden structure no larger than a small closet at WWASP's Paradise Cove program in Western Samoa. Children told of their experiences when they were hog-tied, struck by staff members, and duct-taped during their stay. When an investigation into allegations of child abuse and neglect was initiated, WWASP closed this program.
Again at Paradise Cove in Western Samoa, bugs were seen in the children's meager food portions. There were photos of children with skin infections, including scabies.
Former victims demonstrated the abuse and neglect they endured. They also verbalized it on Dateline, Primetime, Inside Edition and 48 Hours.
More disturbing accounts of abuse and neglect surfaced during the trial, both in WWASP facilities in the U.S. and in other countries:
A Texas mother whose two sons were sent to Tranquility Bay, a WWASP facility in Jamaica, stated when she went to pick them up she saw terror on their faces, ringworm scars, and chemical burns on their bodies. Her children were forced to sleep on plywood beds with soiled mattresses; they had no soap, no toilet paper, no fans, and no hot water.
One boy spent 4 ½ years of his adolescence being physically moved between five WWASP programs. He entered their programs when he was 12 and was 19 at the time of this trial. He broke into tears as the defendants showed the jury a video of children who were locked inside dog cages in the hot Mexican Sun, the very place where his nightmare ended when he was removed from those very cages. In an interview this young man described more horrific events. He told of how older children in the program plotted to kill him in an attempt to shut the program down. They lured him into the water, grabbed him, beat his head against a large piece of coral until he passed out, as they tried to drown him. He has been left with lifelong emotional scars.
Chris Goodwin's son started his journey through WWASP at Casa by the Sea in Mexico. He stressed he did not want a discipline-based environment for his son, but rather a loving environment and was reassured repeatedly that Casa by the Sea was just that – a loving and caring program. He was not allowed to speak to his son for seven months, and was told speaking to him would harm his progress in the program. He later learned his son had been beaten by four staff members in the middle of the night, then forced to sit Indian-style for up to 16 hours per day while facing a wall. Mr. Goodwin received a call from the program director telling him his son needed a harsher environment, recommending his son be sent to Tranquility Bay in Jamaica. Mr. Goodwin would not agree and insisted his son be sent to Cross Creek in LaVerkin, Utah. He was asked to enroll his son into a new WWASP program, High Impact, on a short-term basis while they worked out the details of his transfer to Cross Creek. He was told it was basically a wilderness experience. All the while, his son had already been transferred there without his permission or knowledge. While there, his son's thumb was broken, needing surgery to put it back in place with several screws. He told of how his son's head was pounded into the ground by staff during a restraint. He further testified when he picked up his 15 ½ year-old son from Cross Creek he witnessed a girl whose mouth was covered with duct-tape and felt he had been deceived and financially "taken" by WWASP.
A young Florida girl was described as having to bathe outside in cold water with other girls. When they had their menstrual cycle they all showered in their blood and discharge. She experienced eating pork with hair still on it. Every night she heard kids screaming in OP (observation placement) while others cried for their parents.
This young girl witnessed the suicide death of Valerie Heron on Valerie's first day at Tranquility Bay in Jamaica. Witnesses say there was no staff present to keep her from climbing up onto the railing, jumping to her death. Girls who witnessed this event were told they would receive counseling to cope with their grief and trauma but the therapist never arrived. Instead, the girls witnessing this traumatic event were given some pills to cope with their pain. During the night after Valerie's death, she heard staff trying to scrub the blood stains off the concrete. The next morning, they made the girls line up for head count directly over the blood-stained "X" that marked the spot where Valerie landed.
Jay Kay, Director of Tranquility Bay, and son of Ken Kay, President of WWASP, sat in the courtroom with seemingly no remorse while the defendants presented Prime Time's video clip of him admitting: "Do I have pepper-spray? You bet I do. And, I haven't had to use it in five and a half or six months." Since the time of this trial, Fox aired an interview with a mother whose son was pepper sprayed by Jay Kay and Randall Hinton, employee at Tranquility Bay, on a daily basis for over eight months. Further, his genitals were scrubbed with a toilet brush. In an interview, his mother revealed that before being sent to Tranquility Bay, her son was a 4.0 student and a good boy. He turned to drugs when she and his father divorced, which resulted in her turning to WWASP for help. She stated, "My son suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a direct result of the abuse he suffered at Tranquility Bay. He had a breakdown and spent two years in a mental hospital. He is now 24 years old and still living at home. He has had repeated nightmares for years on at least a weekly basis if not more. Just last week he screamed out in his sleep ‘Randall, why are you doing this to me?' I can personally attest that my child was far worse when he returned from the emersion of abuse and neglect at Tranquility Bay than before he entered this so-called children's program."
John France, an Educational and Forensic Psychologist, testified about his son's stay at WWASP facility Spring Creek Lodge in MT. He stated his son spent nearly nine months in "The Hobbit", a small structure that was no more than two shelves on top of one another, his body barely able to fit. It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. So cold, his orange he stored away at night was frozen by morning. He was forced to sleep on a small shelf and to urinate in his drinking cup during the night. He etched the words "Let Freedom Ring" on one of the shelves.
While others were shocked, distraught, and cried as these accounts of child abuse, neglect, and even death, were divulged, Robert Lichfield was seen smiling in the corner of the courtroom while WWASP lawyers were seen laughing in the presence of the Federal jury.
In 2006 WWASP continues to grow and thrive, housing thousands of children from all over the world. To this day, WWASP refuses to admit any wrongdoing, including child abuse, child neglect and fraud.
WWASP has repeatedly filed lawsuits against advocacy groups in an attempt to stop them from exposing child abuse and neglect in their programs.
Today, Sue Scheff continues in her quest to provide families with the resources, options, and safe alternatives they need in finding help for their children. Congressman George Miller continues to fight for Federal legislation to regulate this industry, and we at PURE support his fight. For more current news and information on the tough-love industry, please visit Coalition Against Institutionalized Child Abuse (CAICA) at www.caica.org.
As of May 2006, it is believed that WWASP aka WWASPS or Premier Educational Systems has affiliations with the following:
Academy of Ivy Ridge, NY (Recently withdrew their affiliation with WWASPS)
Canyon View Park, MT
Camas Ranch, MT
Carolina Springs Academy, SC
Cross Creek Programs, UT (Cross Creek Center and Cross Creek Manor
Darrington Academy, GA
Help My Teen, UT (Adolescent Services Adolescent Placement) Promotes and markets these programs.
Horizon Academy, NV
Lifelines Family Services, UT (Promotes and markets these programs).
Majestic Ranch, UT
Midwest Academy, IA (Brian Viafanua, formerly the Director of Paradise Cove as shown on Primetime, is the current Director here).
Pillars of Hope, Costa Rica
Pine View Christian Academy (Borders FL, AL, MS)
Reality Trek, UT
Red River Academy, LA (Borders TX)
Royal Peak Academy, CO (It is believed that Randall Hinton - who admitted using pepper spray on teens - is employed at this facility).
Sky View Academy, NV
Spring Creek Lodge, MT
Tranquility Bay, Jamaica
On June 6, 2006 WWASPS LOST again in the Supreme Court of Appeals - Sue Scheff's victory speaks for so many children and parents that were victims of WWASPS.
On September 20, 2006 Sue Scheff defeated Carey Bock in a Jury Trial for Internet Defamation and Invasion of Privacy. Many believe that Carey Bock was a puppet for WWASPS in an attempt to destroy Sue Scheff since her courtroom victories. It was confirmed that Carey Bock received $12,500.00 from WWASPS and their attorneys. Sue Scheff was awarded $11.3M for the damages that were done on the Internet. See More Blogs by Sue Scheff.