PHOENIX - An evangelical teen-rehab program has been ordered shut down after a child was found with extensive bruising from a "supervised spanking," authorities said. The Scottsdale-based Teen Reach, which charges parents upward of $35,000 for six months of Christian faith-based drug and alcohol therapy, has a history of licensing violations in Arizona and Ohio.
Last year, Arizona authorities sanctioned Teen Reach for using handcuffs to restrain at least one defiant youth.
The spanking allegations surfaced last month, leading the state Department of Economic Security to file an emergency revocation against the group.
David Matthews, director of the DES licensing office, said Teen Reach officials had parents fly in from out of town to spank their children.
"They (Teen Reach) might as well have been doing the spanking," Matthews said, adding that he issued the emergency revocation because he believed children were in danger.
Matthews said Teen Reach President Bobby Torres refused to allow officials to check the welfare of other teens after the first youth was found bruised.
Torres, a former gang member turned minister, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
In the past, he has denied abusing children in his organization's six group homes in northeast Phoenix, but he has defended his "tough love" policies as necessary to save hopeless teens who failed in other rehab programs.
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