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Challenger II Faces Liquidation In Utah

December 7, 1990

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ A trustee for a wilderness therapy program for wayward teens that was shut down over charges of homicide and child abuse is seeking to dissolve the program and pay off its creditors.

David Cundick, an attorney who represents the program, Challenger II Foundation, said Wednesday that he would not oppose the motion filed in U.S. Bankruptcy court. He said the motion meant Challenger had ″folded.″

″That’s about the size of it,″ Cundick said.

The motion was filed in early November.

Also Wednesday, officials in Hawaii sought a group of teen-agers enrolled in a derivative program calling itself Challenger V Foundation, in which Cartisano claims to be a consultant.

The state attorney general’s office in 3rd Circuit Court on Hawaii Island in a civil clomplaint charged Cartisano and his Challenger V Foundation with violation of five Hawaii laws.

The complaint said Challenger V violates child welfare licensing laws, compulsory school attendance laws, operates without a business license and is avoiding state taxes, is an unlicensed practice of psychology and has engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices.

Tom Farrell, Hawaii’s assistant attorney general, said he believed Cartisano was with the teen-agers either near Kona on Hawaii Island or floating in the seas.

Repeated telephone messages left with Challenger V’s answering service in Honolulu were not returned.

Cartisano’s wife, Debbie, said Wednesday her husband is in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he is attempting to set up another wilderness therapy program. She said she had no way of contacting him.

The Utah program, founded in 1988 by Stephen Cartisano, sought Chapter 11 protection this summer. State officials say it owed more than $279,000 in federal and state taxes. A creditors’ hearing showed the program owed more than $1.1 million and had assets of about $260,000; the program claimed assets of $63,000.

Cartisano, 33, and his company are awaiting trial in May on charges of negligent homicide and child abuse in connection with the hiking death June 27 of Kristen Chase. Athorities closed down the program in August.

An offshoot of a popular wilderness program offered at Brigham Young University in the 1970s, Cartisano claimed therapeutic value in forcing unruly teen-agers to cope and succeed in an unforgiving environment.

In Utah, Challenger charged $16,000 for the 63-day program, which many parents swore by, including the mother of the dead teen-ager.

Mrs. Cartisano accused Hawaii officials of pursuing a vendetta passed on by Utah officials.

″They called over here with all that gossip,″ she said.

She said company attorneys told them that Challenger V is operating legally. She declined to name the lawyers.

″Those people (in Hawaii) haven’t had any complaints,″ she said. ″There’s no reason to be doing these things.″

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