Kaufman Victims Become Advocates For Reform
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 10, 2006
TOPEKA, KANSAS--Two former residents of the Kaufman group home met Wednesday and Thursday with leaders of the Kansas Legislature to urge them to pass measures they said would prevent the kind of abuse, exploitation and slavery they and other residents with mental illness were forced to endure.
Disability rights advocates, including the two women who identified themselves only as Lynn and Nancy, are asking lawmakers to support Senate Bill 239, which would create a unit within the state attorney general's office specifically to investigate abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with mental illness and other disabilities.
Another proposal, SB 240, would prohibit a person from becoming a guardian if that person is a service providers, employee, is likely to be owed money, or otherwise have a conflict of interest.
The legislative proposals come in the wake of the November 7 convictions of 69-year-old Arlen Kaufman and his wife, Linda Kaufman, 62, on a total of 61 charges of forced labor, involuntary servitude, health-care fraud, Medicare fraud, and making false representations. Last month, Mr. Kaufman was sentenced to 30 years in prison, while his wife was sentenced to seven years.
Former residents had testified that over a 20-year period the couple abused and mistreated them, forced them to do household and outdoor tasks entirely in the nude, and then intimidated them to keep them from reporting the abuse. They also said Mr. Kaufman held therapy sessions during which he forced them to perform sexual acts, which he and Mrs. Kaufman videotaped.
The couple also billed inappropriate or non-existent therapies to Medicare.
Additionally, Mr. Kaufman acted as one resident's guardian, as well as her therapist, landlord, and service provider, thereby allowing him to write checks totally more than $97,000 to himself out of her bank account.
Lawmakers also learned that the residents filed 10 complaints with officials during their ordeal, but that those were ignored. One resident who ran away was delivered back to the Kaufman's house by police.
"I went to all the right people and no one could stop it," the woman who identified herself as Nancy told legislative leaders this week.
After hearing the women's testimony, House Speaker Doug Mays told the Wichita Eagle: "They really brought this to life."
"It's just so hard to believe that something like that could happen here in Kansas," Mays added. "The system failed."
In a related story, a federal prosecutor asked a judge Tuesday to order the Kaufmans to pay more than $700,000. The Wichita Eagle reported that the government is seeking reimbursement of more than $216,000 to Medicare, $7,000 to an independent insurance agency, and restitution to six former residents totaling more than $550,000.
Much of the money would come from the sale of Kaufman properties.
"Kaufman victims lobby for reforms" (Wichita Eagle)
"Leaders pledge support for responding to servitude case" (Associated Press)
"$700K at stake for Kaufman victims" (Wichita Eagle)
Text of Senate Bill 239 / House Bill 2306 (Kansas Legislature)
Text of Senate Bill 240 / House Bill 2307 (Kansas Legislature)