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SE Iowa School Owner Facing Charges of Sexual, Child Abuse

Multiple law enforcement agencies were involved in a raid at Midwest Academy in January 2016 that was carried out because of claims of abuse at the boarding school for troubled teens. Now, the owner of the school in Lee County is facing multiple charges in connection with the investigation.

Ben Trane of Idaho Falls, Idaho turned himself in to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office last week. He is charged with 3rd Degree Sexual Abuse, Sexual Exploitation by a Counselor, and Child Endangerment.

The criminal complaints against Trane were filed by Joe Lestina, Special Agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

3rd Degree Sexual Abuse (Felony)

The criminal complaint against Trane states he exercised control of a female student, identified only by her initials in court documents, from January 2015-December 2015 in his role as owner and director of Midwest Academy.

“On multiple occasions, [Trane] performed sexual acts on [the student], including, but not limited to, digital vaginal penetration, oral sex, and sexual intercourse. [Trane] coerced [the student] to engage in the sex acts in order for her to successfully participate and ‘level up’ in the program and to be able to contact her family members.”

Credit Lee County Sheriff Office
Ben Trane

Sexual Exploitation by a Counselor (Felony)

According to Special Agent Lestina, from September 2014-January 2016 (prior to the raid), Trane served as a counselor and therapist, participating in “body image therapy” with female students.

“The ‘body image therapy’ involved [Trane] having the female students undress and stand in front of [a] mirror to discuss what aspects of their body they did not like or felt uncomfortable with. [Trane] 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.

Child Endangerment (Aggravated Misdemeanor)

Court records state that Trane had custody and control over the students at Midwest Academy.

“[Trane] implemented and enforced policies and maintained an environment which created a substantial risk to the students’ physical, mental or emotional health and/or safety, including but not limited to solitary confinement for extended periods of time.”

Trane is being held in the Lee County Jail on $500,000 cash only bond. His next court appearance is Sept. 18.

Midwest Academy has been the subject of two lawsuits since early 2016.

  • A group of students filed a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse, a lack of proper nutrition, and untrained staff and employees. That lawsuit, filed in March 2016, is pending.
  • A former employee filed a wrongful termination lawsuit, claiming she was fired for bringing forward allegations of sexual abuse from a student. The school defaulted on that lawsuit.

The agencies involved in the Midwest Academy investigation include the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the FBI, the Lee County Attorney's Office, and the Lee County Sheriff's Office.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.