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For week ended November 28, 1999 Posted 24 Feb 2001

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Former BYU Football Player disappears (Scrutinized youth camp chief 'took off')

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Former BYU Football Player disappears (Scrutinized youth camp chief 'took off')
Honolulu HI Star-Bulletin 22Nov99 D2
By Susan Kreifels: Star-Bulletin

LAIE, HAWAII -- A former BYU football player who was operating controversial youth reform camps in Samoa and Laie, Hawaii has disappeared, according to the former director of the Hawaii camp. Mekeli Ieremia, who owned both the New Hope Academy in Samoa and the Aloah Youth Academy in Hawaii, can't be found says Jeff Pluemacher. Ieremia is sought by Texas authorities for as much as $4.7 million in workers' compensation funds.

The New Hope Academy shut down earlier this year, and U.S. authorities discovered five hungry teens stranded on Samoa last February. The company claims that disgruntled employees and parents orchestrated its failure. New Hope had been marketed to parents of troubled teens in Utah, using Ieremia's reputation from BYU.

A few weeks later Ieremia opened Aloha Youth Academy, charging $2,490 monthly per child. Soon afterwards, two mainland parents pulled their children from the program when a counselor called them, claiming that Aloha wasn't providing the promised services.

One of the parents then filed a complaint with the Hawaii Office of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. In September, the Academy was shut down until it received proper licenses from the state Department of Health.

Ieremia was suspended earlier this year from a job as director of risk management for the Soccorro Independent School District in El Paso, Texas. The missing workers' compensation funds were from the school district. In an October interview, Ieremia, who has family in Hawaii, says he never came under investigation for the missing funds and that he voluntarily resigned on his attorney's advice.

While authorities and former employees have been unable to locate Ieremia, it is known that he has a home in Samoa and relatives in Hawaii.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information