Molokai police raided the campsite of a controversial wilderness therapy program, evacuating its nine participants, according to Deputy Attorney General Tom Farrell.
The move came Thursday night after Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra issued a temporary restraining order shutting down the Challenger V program, Farrell said.Meanwhile, Stephen Cartisano, founder of the defunct Challenger program in Utah, has been located in Mexico.
In his ruling, Ibarra said "any child participating in Challenger may, at any time, be subject to physical injury, neglect, or even death."
Acting on Ibarra's orders, Hawaii officials located the Challenger campsite in remote Halawa Valley. Officials of the state's Child Protective Services and Molokai police officers evacuated the participants, between 12 and 20 years old, by helicopter.
The youngsters were interviewed by state authorities and given medical checks.
David Beck, one of three adults who were with the group, was arrested on suspicion of endangering the welfare of a child, Farrell said.
He said Beck apparently was affiliated with the original Utah Challenger program. Farrell said it wasn't known who was operating the Hawaii program.
"We're still trying to piece together who the players are," he said.
Asked how the campsite was found, Farrell said, "The AG's office and local police had a lot of intelligence sources" but declined to say more.
The participants apparently had been in the valley for a week to 10 days and didn't appear to have any serious injuries, Farrell said.
"They were reported to be extremely happy to see the police and Child Protective Services," Farrell said.
Cartisano says he is in Mexico not to hide from Hawaii authorities but to save teenagers.
Farrell has said his department has tried to locate Cartisano for nearly two months.
The state went to court Wednesday, seeking to shut down the program, which it contended violated child-welfare licensing laws and school attendance laws, does not have a business license and was avoiding state taxes.
"Tell the (Hawaii officials) to come here to Mexico and I'll tell them what they can do with their lawsuit," Cartisano told Salt Lake contacts.
He said he has been reluctant to help the attorney general's office find the children because he does not believe it has any legal grounds against the program.
"Well, no, they're not precisely in Hawaii. That's all I can tell you," he said. "They're on a sailboat and they sail from island to island and they just get around. That's all."
Following news of the Hawaii action, Cartisano said he called Challenger V leaders and may go there within the next week.
Cartisano's original Challenger group was shut down in Utah after state authorities refused to renew its license. State licensing officials became alarmed when a girl died of heat stroke while enrolled in the program, and they alleged several other teens displayed signs of being physically abused.
Cartisano has since been charged with negligent homicide and nine counts of child abuse. He is scheduled to stand trial April 29 in Kanab.