Treatment Abuse, Behavior Modification, Thought Reform > World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS)

Midwest Academy, Keokuk confirmed closed!



--- Quote from: KWWL News ---Midwest Academy officially closed after sexual abuse allegations
By Shavon Anderson, KWWL News, February 5 2016

The owner of Midwest Academy in Keokuk is speaking out one week after authorities raided the campus, acting on allegations of sexual abuse involving a staff member and a former student.

Midwest Academy in Keokuk is officially closed.

"We are sad to announce that we had to lay off our final 60 employees at the school," owner Ben Trane said.

Trane held a press conference Friday night at the now vacant campus, a week after the Department of Human Services gave parents 24 hours to pick up their kids.

"On Thursday, January 28, 2016, Midwest Academy and the Midwest Treatment Centers experienced a large search by numerous branches of law enforcement," Trane said.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety stated that search warrants were issued after an investigation into sexual abuse involving a staff member and a former student. Former employee Cheyenne Jerred says she knew of the abuse back in November and was fired in December, a day after filing a report.

Trane removed our mic immediately after his prepared statement, and when asked for comment about the employee's wrongful discharge lawsuit, he said, "nope not at this time."

No further details about the case have been released by state officials.

WGEM is set to speak with Jerred's lawyer on Monday.

--- End quote ---


by Cindy Iutzi, Fort Madison Daily Democrat,  May 3 - 2016

KEOKUK —The investigation into alleged sexual abuse at Midwest Academy in Keokuk has been ongoing for three months, but as of today, no criminal charges have been filed.

A multi-agency force including federal, state and county officers executed two search warrants on Jan. 28 at the self-described therapeutic boarding school just outside of Keokuk. Since then, two civil lawsuits have been filed and former students have come forward to tell  about their experience at MWA.

Luc’s Story

Luc Michalski of the St. Louis area encountered Midwest Academy 10 years ago.

It was September 2005, and Michalski recalls that he was asleep at his parents’ home in the St. Louis area.

“Two very large men showed up in my bedroom at 4 a.m. and said it was time to go to class,” he said. “I was kind of confused. I was taking college courses at the time and my class was not until 2 p.m. Mom was there at the time, so I just went.”

The men put him in a van and drove him to Keokuk, a city he’d never heard of before. When the van finally reached Midwest Academy, he was stripped, checked for tattoos and had his head shaved.

“Intervention (isolation room) was full when I got there,” he said. “It was customary to spend the first night in isolation so you couldn’t run or hurt yourself. Just knowing about intervention was a way to keep me straight.”

After all these years, Michalski still describes his relationship with his parents as strained.

This year, his father sent his 28-year-old an email apology for sending him to Midwest Academy. Luc’s mother refuses to believe his story about the experience.

“It really has affected my relationships, how I trust people,” Michalski said. “I still have nightmares that I’m getting sent there today. Just to have no way to communicate with anyone. Letters would have words crossed out or they would be seized. It’s just the idea you could be cut off from everyone.”

In the first 6 1/2 months after he returned home, “I wasn’t myself anymore. I was afraid to look out a window, speak with my friends.”
Michalski has undergone therapy and worked hard to get past the memories.

And he hasn’t extended his studies.

“The last thing I wanted was to return to school,” he said. “This left me overall with a chip on my shoulder.

“(My parents) owe me something. They are the ones who have to fix it. It feels like there’s irreparable damage, not only to me, but to our relationship. There’s something intangible that’s not there.”

MWA’s closing is bittersweet to Michalski.

“I thought it would be more satisfying,” he said.

Michalski acknowledges he’d been a “pretty depressed kid” and had dabbled lightly in drugs prior to being sent away. His parents were worried about him and afraid he’d hurt himself or get into a bad spot, he said.

He admits to having smoked some marijuana, but denies any thoughts of self-harm.

“I was dramatic about life in general, not knowing how to handle it,” Michalski said. “It’s tough to be that age. You don’t feel right in your skin.”


The Department of Human Services conducted 28 assessments of students on Jan. 28, and gave parents 24 hours to pick up their children.

On the next day, investigators with the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation confiscated a U-Haul truckload of files, records and other materials from  academy grounds.

Not long after the school’s students were sent home or away, the staff was laid off and Midwest Academy closed its doors. 

Since the days immediately following the raid, no public communiques have been issued by the DCI. No state or federal charges have been filed, and nothing is known about the status of the case.

Lee County Attorney Mike Short recently said that when he turned the case over to state and federal investigators and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, as far as he is concerned, it’s out of his hands.


As tight-lipped as investigators are, plenty is happening around the periphery of the case.

Two civil suits have been filed against Midwest Academy LLC, Midwest Twister LLC, Midwest Academy Treatment LLC, Midwest Academy Scholarship Fund and owner-director Benjamin Trane – one  on behalf of a half-dozen former students and their parents, and in a separate matter, one by former Midwest Academy employee, Cheyenne Jerred. 

Jerred claims she was fired for reporting the alleged sexual abuse of a student by Trane.

The students/parents want financial damages awarded for the school’s “illegal environment” and “culture of punishment, confinement, coercion and physical confrontation and violence,” including sexual abuse and harassment, according to court documents.

Iowa legislators reached a deal Thursday that will add some state oversight to children’s residential facilities. They will have to register with the state, pass safety inspections and met requirement related to living conditions.

--- End quote ---


--- Quote from: Des Moines Register, by Lee Rood, November 22, 2017 ---Former Midwest Academy students win suit alleging widespread sex abuse

A Lee County judge has awarded a default judgment to several former students and their parents against Midwest Academy, the Keokuk boarding school raided in January 2016 amid allegations of sexual abuse.

The former students alleged widespread abuse and mistreatment at the expensive former facility for troubled teens, including beatings, sex between students and staff, sex among students, forced silence and ignored pleas for medical attention.

Midwest’s owner, Ben Trane, faces a Dec. 12 trial in Lee County District Court on charges of felony sexual abuse, sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist, and child endangerment.

He did not hire a lawyer to defend Midwest Academy in the civil case.

"Midwest was not a 'school.' It was not accredited by the State of Iowa. Instead, it was a for-profit facility which, as the pending criminal charges against its owner describes, endangered children, exploited them sexually and subjected them to abuse," said David Ferleger, the Pennsylvania civil rights lawyer who represented the former students.

The Nov. 15 decision also granted motions for default judgments against Midwest Academy Treatment and Midwest Academy Scholarship Fund, two limited liability partnerships Trane established.

A hearing to establish damages will be held after Trane’s criminal trial. He has been jailed since September in the criminal case.

“We are confident that never again will Midwest Academy take such awful advantage of children," Ferleger said.

The FBI, the Iowa Department of Public Safety, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and other agencies raided the school of about 100 teens Jan. 28, 2016.

The school routinely kept teens in isolation in 6-foot-by-8-foot rooms for weeks, requiring them to sit for hours on end in specific postures with little food.

The lawsuit also accused Trane of ordering girls to undress in front of two mirrors and to come out and tell him their body type.

Ferleger claimed parents were manipulated by fraud and deception to place their children in the unlicensed, unaccredited facility.

--- End quote ---


--- Quote ---New trial denied, former Midwest Academy owner sentenced to prison

Former Midwest Academy owner, Ben Trane, was denied a new trial Thursday and sentenced to prison, but was expected to be free by Friday.

The judge sentenced Trane to 9 years in prison with credit for time served.

Trane also must register as a sex offender and will be under supervision for 10 years once released.

Trane filed an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court. He is expected to post a $5,000 bond and free Friday at noon, as the appeals process plays out.

Trane was accused of mentally and sexually abusing students at Midwest Academy in Keokuk.

Three criminal complaints were filed against Trane in August of 2017 by Iowa Department of Public Safety Special Agent Joe Lestino.

In one complaint, Lestino describes the sexual abuse allegation against Trane.

Lestino stated between January and December of 2015, Trane performed sexual acts on a student. He stated Trane "coerced the student to engage in sex acts for her to successfully participate and 'level up' in the program and to be able to contact her family members."

In the second complaint, Lestino stated the following:

During September 2014 through January 2016, defendant was owner and director of the Midwest Academy, a private for-profit therapeutic boarding school. Defendant held himself out to students as a counselor and therapist. Defendant proctored and participated in individual and group counseling sessions with female students, which included 'body therapy". The "body image therapy" involved the defendant having the female students undress and stand in front of a mirror to discuss what aspects of their body they did not like of felt uncomfortable with. Defendant further engaged in sexually explicit conversations with female students through conversation and written questionnaires and had physical contact with some of the female students. These acts were done for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification and attempted grooming.

The third complaint, which charges Trane with child endangerment, Lestino stated that the defendant maintained an environment that created a substantial risk to the students' physical, mental, or emotional health and/or safety. He stated this included solitary confinement for extended periods of time.

Multiple agencies, including the FBI, raided Midwest Academy in Keokuk in 2016 in light of sexual abuse allegations and students were removed. The school was officially closed just days later.

Trane was convicted in a jury trial in December.

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