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Posted November 5, 2003

U.S. Federal Probe of WWASP Requested
By Tim Rogers

U.S. Representative George Millar, Senior Democrat on the Committee on Education and the Workforce, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday requesting a federal investigation into allegations of abuse by the WorldWide Association of Specialty Programs (WWASP).

One of Rep. Millar's congressional aids had told The Tico Times in September that the U.S. lawmaker was preparing to request a federal probe following the closure of Costa Rica's WWASP-affiliated Dundee Ranch Academy and allegations of abuse at other WWASP facilities in the United States, Jamaica and Mexico (TT, Sept. 12).

WWASP is the umbrella organization under which Dundee Ranch Academy, a behavior-modification program for troubled teens, operated here, before being closed last May following government interventions to investigate allegations of rights abuse (TT, May 23).

"I am requesting, in my capacity as Senior Democratic Member, that you initiate a formal investigation into allegations of child abuse, human rights violations, fraudulent and deceptive advertising, fraud and unjust enrichment under the Internal Revenue Code, and violations of other Federal civil or criminal laws by [WWASP] and its founders," reads the congressman's letter to Ashcroft.

Dundee Ranch was one of 11 WWASP programs in the United States and abroad. An estimated 2,200 children were enrolled in the residential programs, including 200 in Dundee Ranch.

"There have been serious allegations that hundreds of children have been mistreated or neglected and that their legal rights have been regularly flaunted. There are also hundreds of parents who assert that they were drawn into the program by misleading advertising. We believe that the Department of Justice should investigate whether federal laws concerning child abuse and neglect, interstate commerce or unfair or deceptive advertising have been broken by WWASPS or those operating these facilities," the letter reads.

The letter to Ashcroft mentions that "Dundee Ranch was closed after Costa Rican authorities charged the facility with violating children's civil rights," and quotes testimony of abuse by former Dundee Ranch director Amberley Knight, who first told The Tico Times last March that the academy "is poorly managed, takes financial advantage of parents in crisis, and puts teens in physical and emotional risk " (TT, March 14).

The letter concludes by asking Ashcroft to "please provide by Nov. 17, 2003, a written report on steps you have taken to initiate an investigation of all allegations."

This article was reprinted with permission from
The Tico Times;

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