Crime & Courts

Sentence for 'nude therapy' is doubled

Nancy Jensen showed little emotion as she heard her former abuser, Linda Kaufman, speak to a federal judge.

Kaufman spoke of Jensen, who lived in the group home known as the Kaufman House in Newton 20 years ago.

"Although I have great sympathy for the pain in Nancy's life, I don't think I caused that pain," Linda Kaufman, 66, said Monday.

Jensen had told state and federal authorities, jurors and a judge of what Linda Kaufman and her husband, Arlan, had done to her and other severely mentally ill people who had put their trust in the couple to care for them.

U.S. District Judge Monti Belot quoted Jensen and pointed to the courage of others who came forward to testify against their abusers, as he more than doubled Linda Kaufman's sentence. She will now spend 15 years in federal prison.

"They don't get it, how they really messed up our lives," Jensen said after Monday's hearing. "I think she was just trying to hurt me again."

The Kaufmans were convicted in 2005 of involuntary servitude and health care fraud. A jury found the couple guilty of making the mentally ill people at their houses do farm work in the nude and other humiliating activities. They then billed Medicare and Medicaid for those services.

Arlan Kaufman was a social worker; Linda Kaufman a nurse.

In early 2006, Belot originally sentenced Linda Kaufman to seven years in prison and her husband to 30 years, saying he dominated his wife in their abuse of the residents.

But prosecutors appealed Linda Kaufman's sentence, saying she deserved more prison time. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to Belot.

Further arguments last month gave him information he didn't have at the original sentencing, Belot said before imposing the stiffer sentence. There is no parole from federal prison.

Comparing the Kaufmans' treatment of their residents to the abuse of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, Belot said that Linda Kaufman had done more to aid in the abuse of the residents than just act as a dutiful wife.

"To the extent that I bought into Linda Kaufman's protestations that she was some kind of willing pawn at the hands of her husband, I don't do it now," Belot said.

He said Linda Kaufman played a key role in keeping the Kaufman House in business and hiding the abuse from authorities for two decades.

That ended after schoolchildren on a bus saw nude people working on a farm owned by the Kaufmans in 1999, prompting law enforcement to look more closely into the activities at the Kaufman House.

Still, it took five years to bring charges against the couple.

"Indeed, but for the sighting by the children on the school bus, I am firmly convinced that Kaufman House would be in business today, because that's what Arlan and Linda Kaufman did for a living," Belot said.

Two of the Kaufmans' three children, Michael and Cheryl, were in court Monday.

"Our family is devastated by this lack of justice," said a statement released by the family after the hearing.

They criticized prosecutor Tanya Treadway for pushing the Court of Appeals for more time. They continued to support their mother.

"Imprisoning a 66-year-old non-violent woman for 15 years accomplishes nothing," the family said.

Belot said the evidence he heard about abuse at the Kaufman House was worse than what the couple might experience in prison.

But he said that Linda Kaufman had shown remorse for her actions, while Arlan Kaufman had not.

Belot also said that should Linda Kaufman ever get out of prison, he didn't think she would be likely to commit more crimes.

Those were the reasons Belot said he used in deciding to give Linda Kaufman half the prison time of her husband.