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Nine missing New Mexico teens accounted for-police

Reuters

(Reuters) - Nine teenage boys who were missing from a ranch for troubled youths in southern New Mexico that has been under investigation for alleged abuse have been accounted for, police said on Sunday.

Officials would say little about where the teenagers, ages 13 to 17, were found or what condition they were in, only saying four were located on Saturday and five found on Sunday.

A lawyer for the ranch had said that the boys were with their parents on a "scheduled activity away from the ranch for several days."

But police said they were not able to independently confirm the whereabouts of all of the boys until Sunday.

"We can say the boys' well-being was visibly confirmed by authorities, nothing further," New Mexico State Police Sgt. Emmanuel Gutierrez told Reuters.

New Mexico State Police have been investigating reports that boys were beaten, shackled for days and denied food as punishment at the Tierra Blanca Ranch near Deming, New Mexico.

The program, which operates on a 30,000-acre (12,000-hectare) cattle ranch, offers "a new beginning for troubled and at-risk youth," according to its website.

The probe came after Bruce Stager, 18, died last month when he was thrown from the back of a pickup truck.

Authorities said they went to the ranch on Friday with a search warrant and court orders requiring operator Scott Chandler to turn over the nine teenagers to the Children Youth and Families Department, but found no one there.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Stacey Joyce)

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