Utah Teen Programs Investigated by New York

Utah Teen Programs Investigated by New York

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The New York State Attorney General's Office is investigating southern Utah-based programs for troubled youths following the alleged beating of a teen being transported to an affiliated school in New York.

Two men associated with La Verkin-based Teen Escort are accused of beating the boy as he was being taken to the Academy at Ivy Ridge in New York.

The academy is a member program of the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools/Teen Help founded by Robert Lichfield of Utah.

A New York investigator told the Deseret Morning News that the business operations of WWASP and Teen Escort have him concerned because of what he says is a lack of regulatory oversight of the transport services.

Officials with the programs deny wrongdoing by the employees and say they welcome an investigation because they have nothing to hide.

New York State Police investigator James Hunt said the parents of a 17-year-old boy hired transporters with Teen Escort to take their son from their home in southern New York on March 22 to the school near the Canadian border.

The parents paid several thousand dollars for the service, which included having their son removed from home while he was asleep in bed, having him cuffed and then escorted to a car in his bare feet, said Hunt, who was quoted in a copyright story in the News.

At one point, the boy allegedly grabbed the steering wheel and caused the car to crash into a guard rail, after which he was beaten about the face, authorities allege.

New Yorkers Leonard Faulstick and Timothy Hurd have been charged with unlawful imprisonment and assault in the incident, Hunt said.

Hunt said Hurd was a contract employee of Teen Escort and Faulstick was subcontracted to help with the transport.

He said neither man had received any formal training.

James Wall, a spokesman for WWASP and Teen Escort, said training isn't needed because it is not an advanced form of criminal handling.

"It's not like being on a SWAT team," he said.

Hunt said private youth programs for troubled kids appear to fall under little control. Officials discovered, for example, that Teen Escort's business registration in Utah had lapsed.

A check of the Utah Department of Commerce's Web site shows the business registration for Teen Escort Services in La Verkin has been expired since 1998. It is also described as a "scenic and sightseeing" transportation service, the News said.

Wall denies there was any assault.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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