A powerful Wyoming ranching family ran a $6,000-a-month child labor camp where troubled teens were threatened with no food or sleep if they didn’t shovel manure, feed animals and load hay quickly enough, lawsuits claim
A ranch for troubled youth in Wyoming is accused of subjecting boys to the grueling conditions of a “child labor camp.”
A ranching company affiliated with the Triangle Cross Ranch allegedly forced troubled teenagers to work around the clock, sleep in a barn and urinate in jugs, all without food and sleep unless they worked hard enough.
The allegations were made in an October 2023 lawsuit filed by former ranch residents Andrew Lewis and Andrew Unruh, in lawsuits that also allege manure was shoveled and they suffered burns from welding “almost daily.”
In response, the ranch denied the allegations, claiming that any rough treatment the boys suffered was with the consent of their parents, who paid thousands of dollars for their sons’ presence.
“Participants in the program are enrolled with the consent of their parents or guardians, who are informed of the rigors of the program and the types of ranch duties their sons will be required to perform,” the ranch said in a counter-filing Friday. reports Cowboy stands daily.
The ranch previously faced allegations of abuse from other former attendees, including branding it with hot metal and taking away a boy’s mattress because he refused to stick a pitchfork through the chest of a dying calf.
The Triangle Cross Ranch, a disciplinary camp for troubled teens, is accused of running a child labor center where boys were forced to work around the clock with little food or sleep.
Owners Jerry and Michaeleen Schneider (pictured together) were named in the application. In response, the ranch claimed that the allegations were greatly exaggerated, and that any forced labor was done with the consent of the teens’ concerned parents.
The lawsuit was filed against Triangle Cross Ranch owner Jerry Schneider, his wife Michaeleen, his twin sons Matthew and Mark, and his son-in-law Thomas George.
In its response requesting that the lawsuits be dismissed, the ranch claimed there were no specific allegations against the named individuals, saying the allegations were “impossible” because they would have had to perform “hundreds of hours of work over a period of time” from twelve o’clock. .’
“Such allegations are prima facie incredulous because they suggest that each plaintiff performed hundreds of hours of work in a twelve-hour period,” the ranch said in response.
“Although it would take an experienced rancher hundreds of hours to perform such tasks, Plaintiff Lewis claims that at the age of 14 he was able to accomplish all of the above in the space of twelve hours.”
However, according to the reported filing, the lawsuit does not allege that the said chores were fully completed each day, with Lewis saying in the complaint that he was “forced” to continue working from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.
Lewis’ lawsuit said he had to shovel manure, bag hundreds of bags of grain, feed and care for animals, and load hay — chores he said amounted to child labor.
In separate allegations, a 2012 visitor, Andrew Scavuzzo, described conditions at the ranch clearly: “It was child labor.”
“You were basically just a slave to the owners because we were ‘in trouble’ and they were going to make us men or something like that,” he said. NBC News at the time.
Scavuzzo also claimed that the boys had to box each other as punishment, and the staff burned his arm in the shape of a cross with a hot piece of metal. The ranch denied his claims.
In a separate lawsuit, Andrew Scavuzzo, 27, who was sent to Triangle Cross Ranch from Colorado in 2012, said his experience resembled “child labor.”
Scavuzzo claimed that two staff members branded his right arm in the shape of a cross with scorching metal
The lawsuit also names two of Jerry’s sons, Mark (pictured) and Matthew, and alleged teenagers were forced to work around the clock shoveling manure, bagging hundreds of bags of grain, feeding and caring for animals and loading hay.
According to court documents as of 2015, the ranch charged up to $2,500 in administrative fees and $6,000 per month for parents to send their teens to help them overcome difficulties including drug and alcohol abuse.
The allegations against the ranch also include claims that participants closely monitored their communications with their parents, but the lawsuits do not say their parents did not consent to the ranch’s methods.
Schneiders’ counterargument argues that this is because they ‘cannot’ make that claim, and argued that claims of ‘child labour’ were little more than grumblings about the disciplinary measures they were subjected to.
“It is not surprising that the plaintiffs – troubled youth in need of intensive treatment – did not want to attend the program at the Ranch or otherwise receive help for their problems,” the ranch said.
“But (their) parents or guardians wanted them to participate in the program.”
Lewis and Unruh visited the ranch in 2014, and the company claimed the lawsuits did not include specific allegations against specific people, including Michaeleen who has Alzheimer’s disease and had not managed the ranch since July 2002.
The filing states that it is therefore “completely unlikely” that Michaeleen harmed the boys in 2014, and that they “blatantly” sued her despite knowledge of her health problems.
The family similarly alleges that Jerry Schneider, his twin sons Matthew and Mark, and his son-in-law Thomas George carried out anything approaching the level of forced child labor or human trafficking.
They concluded that the men are not entitled to a refund of the thousands of dollars their parents paid for their participation, arguing that it was never their money in the first place.