Ben Trane: MidWest Academy Director is Now Behind Bars for Abuse

If there’s one thing absolutely nobody can deny, it’s that the troubled teen industry has sadly always been backed by abuse, corruption, debauchery, and greed more than anything else. This much has actually even been explored in Netflix’s ‘The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping,’ especially with its focus on the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs & Schools (WWASP). Yet for now, if you simply wish to learn more about arguably one of the most disgraced directors to have served an institution under this umbrella organization, we’ve got the details for you.

Who is Ben Trane?

It was reportedly in the 1990s that Benjamin (or Ben) kickstarted his career in the boarding school business by landing a job at WWASP Founder Robert Lichther’s Cross Creek disciplinary programs. However, per his own narrative in an interview with Woodbury Reports, he soon distanced himself from their connection once many affiliated facilities closed amid allegations of child abuse. He then went on to claim his Midwest Academy in Keokuk, Iowa, was never a member of this controversial association, yet the truth is it was Rober t who’d rolled the dice to set it up in 2003.

According to reports, Robert had negotiated with Lee County development officials to buy a vacant county home, just to then work alongside former legislative leaders to evolve it into the school. He had actually run the $500,000 partnership for the property, which was then transferred to Midwest Twister limited liability corporation at no cost, and Ben ultimately became its owner-director. It thus comes as no surprise that ever since then, the latter was the one to always publicly assert they were an establishment set up to help parents evaluate programs for their troubled teens.

Yet things changed starting in 2009 when a federal lawsuit was filed against both WWASP as well as Midwest Academy, among other defendants, on the grounds they were abusive to a tee. The allegation was that they strip plus cavity searched all their minor students in front of others, denied them food, medicine, rest, shower, and toilet rights, and isolated them from all loved ones. There were a few additional claims too, but a judge dismissed the entire matter in 2011 owing to not its possible implications or merits but a technical issue over it being filed in the wrong jurisdiction.

Nevertheless, the heat against Midwest or Ben didn’t let up because what followed were declarations they weren’t even providing proper education to the hundreds of youngsters under their care. Their website clearly stated the academy had “a unique dual enrollment agreement” with the Keokuk school district “that allowed for a variety of educational opportunities, resources, and support not available at other private schools,” but it’d actually expired in 2011. Then came the eventual late January 2016 two-day federal raid of the complete estate following a student’s report of having been sexually assaulted at the highest of levels, that is, by Ben.

Where is Ben Trane Now?

As per official records, law enforcement had received over 80 calls concerning Midwest Academy since January 2013, and shockingly, five of those indicated sexual crimes of one kind or another. However, no state agency — from the Fire Marshals to the Iowa Departments of Human Services, Education, or Inspections and Appeals — ever monitored/visited the institution until early 2016. Ben was hence arrested, and in the end, he was also jury convicted of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, sexual exploitation by a counselor, plus child endangerment in December 2017.

These all stemmed from the initial accusations that Ben had sexually assaulted a 17-year-old female student as well as kept two male students in confinement for extended periods of time. He was consequently sentenced to a total of nine years in prison, only to remain free on appeal, that is, until the Iowa Supreme Court vehemently upheld the lower court’s verdicts in early 2023. This former boarding school owner-director then had no choice but to turn himself in to Lee County authorities, and so today, he remains incarcerated at the low-medium-security Newton Correctional Facility in Jasper County, Iowa. He will be eligible for parole in 2025, but his estimated release date remains February 9, 2027.

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