Couple indicted on servitude charges

Newton residents allegedly forced to work in nude

? A Newton couple already charged with forcing mentally ill residents of a group home to work on their farm were indicted Wednesday on 35 charges.

The indictment, returned by a federal grand jury, replaces one issued in November, charging Arlan D. Kaufman, 68, and his wife, Linda J. Kaufman, 61, with a single count of involuntary servitude.

The Kaufmans now face 16 counts of health care fraud, 10 counts of mail fraud, three counts of holding group home residents in involuntary servitude, two counts of forcing them to perform labor and a single count each of conspiracy, obstructing a federal audit and making false documents, the U.S. attorney’s office said. The 35th count is a forfeiture charge through which prosecutors are seeking to reclaim more than $200,000 that authorities allege the Kaufmans received by submitting fraudulent bills to the federal Medicare program.

The Kaufmans, who were arrested in October, have operated a group home for adults with mental disabilities in Newton since 1995. The original involuntary servitude charge stemmed from an allegation that residents of the home were forced to work in the nude at a farm in Potwin, about 50 miles southeast of the group home, in 1999.

The new indictment accuses the Kaufmans of forcing group home residents to perform sexually explicit acts and manual labor. The indictment also alleges that the Kaufmans videotaped some of the residents’ sexual contacts during purported therapy sessions.

James Wyrsch, a Kansas City, Mo., the Kaufmans’ attorney, said Wednesday night that he had not seen the indictment but that the Kaufmans, “intend to plead not guilty and vigorously defend themselves.”

The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services conducted an investigation in 2001 that resulted in the suspension of Arlan Kaufman’s social work license. That year, 30 videotapes were seized of “nude therapy” sessions.

Linda Kaufman, a nurse whose license has been suspended, was in charge of dispensing medication at the group home