Wyoming Ranch Denies Claims It Enslaved, Trafficked Troubled Boys

The Triangle Cross Ranch in Powell, Wyoming, denies in court filings it was a nightmare for a pair of teen boys housed there 10 years ago, who claim they were used as forced labor and trafficked.

Clair McFarland

April 17, 20243 min read

Triangle Cross Ranch 10 30 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Andrew Lewis of Texas and Andrew Unruh of California sued the Triangle Cross Ranch in October, alleging the ranch was a nightmare of forced labor and human trafficking while they stayed there in 2014.

The ranch has countered in court filings, denying claims of wrongdoing. The ranch also said the plaintiffs sued the wrong version of their ever-evolving business and failed to state legally cognizable claims. The ranch owner’s wife is not mentally well enough to be culpable, the ranch also said in its April 4 response.

“To the extent Plaintiffs have suffered any damages due to an act or omission of non-parties … such conduct is not attributable to Defendants,” says the ranch’s filing.

Also, the alleged injuries may have been caused by “unforeseeable intervening acts of third parties” or by the plaintiffs themselves, the filing says.

The filing also says the plaintiffs consented to the treatment program individually or through their parents by signing a waiver saying they’d perform chores during their stay at the ranch.

Judge Lets Some People Out

Unruh and Lewis originally sued Triangle Ranch operator Gerald Schneider; his wife Michaeleen Schneider; their sons Mark, Matthew and Daniel Schneider; Mystic Monk Coffee; Thomas George; and Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.

But U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal dismissed all claims against Mystic Monk Coffee and against Daniel Schneider last month. She also dismissed all claims against Triangle Cross Ranch LLC, noting that that current iteration of what was formerly Triangle Cross Ranch Inc. did not yet exist during the alleged trafficking situations.

Unruh and Lewis sued Triangle Cross LLC, though their complaint levels claims against Triangle Cross Ranch Inc.

Freudenthal also dismissed the two men’s requests for recovery of the fees their parents paid to the ranch.

But Lewis and Unruh’s case still asks for other kinds of relief, like back pay for their labor, compensatory damages for emotional distress and other compensatory damages.

‘Constant Threat’

The complaint says the ranch operators used “reality therapy,” but had a different understanding of it than the Vietnam War-era founders of the therapy who sought to refocus people on elements of their lives they could control. 

“It has nothing to do with giving someone a ‘dose of reality’ or the threat of punishment,” the complaint says. “As practiced by TCR (Triangle Cross Ranch), reality therapy is merely abuse.” 

The men claim they were forced to work in unfathomable conditions while receiving little to no formal education, behavioral treatment or therapy, starting early in the morning until late at night, without pay and under the “constant threat of physical and psychological punishment and further confinement.” 

When they were boys in 2014, their parents paid the ranch to host them, says the complaint. The teens allegedly worked without pay for months, fearing they’d be abused or confined if they did not. 

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter