WICHITA, Kan. – A couple who run a mental health facility forced mentally ill adults to labor on their Kansas farm in the nude and subjected them to other forms of physical abuse, a criminal federal complaint unsealed Wednesday charges.
Arlan Kaufman, 68, and his wife, Linda, 61, were charged with involuntary servitude in the 1999 incident at their farm home in Potwin. They remained jailed Wednesday after making an initial appearance before a federal magistrate.
Authorities also said the couple’s mental health facility in Newton failed to provide any treatment to its residents for 15 years.
Their attorney, James Fletcher, who is also Linda Kaufman’s brother, said the couple is not guilty.
“A lot of it (is) made up, a lot of false allegations,” Fletcher said.
According to an affidavit filed by an agent with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, authorities found two nude people working in the yard of Arlan Kaufman’s home in November 1999. Neighbors told Butler County deputies that the Kaufmans on several occasions brought people to the home in central Kansas to perform carpentry and other manual labor in the nude.
FBI agents removed six adults from the couple’s care on Tuesday, FBI spokesman Jeff Lanza said.
The Kaufmans are charged under a law that makes it illegal to hold or sell another person into “any condition of involuntary servitude,” which is prohibited by the 13th Amendment banning slavery. Violators can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
The affidavit alleges the Kaufmans used a stun gun to shock one resident of their care facility on his stomach, testicles and feet in front of other residents and punished residents by taking away their clothes.
The Kaufmans have operated the Kaufman Treatment Center, also known as the Kaufman House Residential Group Treatment Center, since 1985. About 14 people stayed at the center during that time, authorities said.
Documents obtained Wednesday by the Associated Press indicated some state officials knew about problems at the home as early as 2001.
The state’s Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board suspended Arlan Kaufman’s clinical social worker license in August 2001. The order includes allegations of sexual exploitation by Kaufman of dependent adults.
Phyllis Gilmore, executive director of the state Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board, said Wednesday she wasn’t sure why it took officials so long to shut down the Kaufman’s home after the license suspension. Gilmore said her agency lost jurisdiction in the matter once Kaufman’s license was suspended.
A message seeking comment left at the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services offices in Topeka was not returned Wednesday. There was no answer when SRS Secretary Janet Schalansky was called at home; her spokesman did not immediately return a message left at his home.
Rocky Nichols, executive director of Kansas Advocacy and Protective Services, a federally funded organization, said it received a report in May from a mentally disabled woman in her 50s who claimed her guardian and therapist had sexually abused her for years.
The agency got an emergency order the same day to suspend the Kaufmans’ guardianship authority and removed the woman from the home, Nichols said.
The agency then worked with federal authorities to get the rest of the adults out of the home, he said.