KEOKUK — The former owner and director of Midwest Academy testified Monday he is penniless and does not have the money to pay about $750,000 in damages awarded to a former employee at the closed private school for troubled teenagers.

Benjamin Trane, who is facing a criminal trial on sexual abuse charges next week in South Lee County District Court, testified during a "debtor's examination" Monday in Keokuk that all assets associated with Midwest Academy have been liquidated or turned over to the owners of the property, where the private boarding school was located in Lee County.

"As soon as the doors to the school were closed, I turned over everything to Midwest Twister and Prestige Funding," Trane testified, referring to the owner of the two properties where the school was located near Keokuk. "I've been back in there once after it was closed. I don't know what they decided to do with the furniture, computers and stuff like that ... It could still be in there."

Trane told Curtis Dial, the attorney representing Cheyenne Jerred, he could not answer many of the questions surrounding his finances because he is required to stay in Lee County until the criminal charges pending against him are resolved.

"Everything I have (financial records) are in Idaho and I'm here," he told Dial tersely.

The debtor's examination was required after District Judge John Wright ordered Trane to pay Jerred $748,000 in damages in connection with a lawsuit Dial filed against Trane and Midwest Academy after Jerred was fired.

Although District Judge John Linn placed Trane under oath prior to Monday's debtor's examination, he wasn't in the jury room and did not participate in the debtor's hearing. Trane appeared without counsel at Monday's hearing. Although Linn was not present, Trane was required under Iowa law to testify truthfully about his financial situation.

The hearing was conducted in a second-floor jury room with Dial, Trane and Jerred in the room, along with two media representatives. Trane was not represented by an attorney in the civil matter.

Dial filed a “whistleblower” lawsuit against Trane and Midwest Academy on behalf of Jerred a few weeks after she was terminated. Dial said Trane fired Jerred after he learned she was the employee who notified authorities about problems at the school.

Wright issued a default judgement against Trane earlier this year, ordering him to pay Jerred $748,000. He issued the default judgement after Trane failed to hire an attorney or present any evidence in the lawsuit.

After Monday's hearing, Dial said the debtor's examination was "the first step we must go through to determine" what assets Trane may have that would enable him to pay all or part of the judgement awarded to Jerred.

"This is the start of a long process," Dial said, referring to his attempt to collect the damages. 'We have a lot more work to do."

Dial quizzed Trane on his finances, but refrained from asking him questions associated with his pending criminal trial.

The criminal trial is scheduled to begin 9 a.m. next Tuesday in South Lee County District Court. He is facing charges of third-degree sexual abuse, sexual exploitation by a counselor and child endangerment. The trial is expected to last six days.

If convicted of all three charges, Trane faces up to 17 years in prison.

He is being represented in the criminal case by Lisa Schaefer, a private attorney appointed by the court to represent Trane after he indicated he was indigent and couldn't afford to hire his own attorney.

Denise Timmins, an assistant Iowa attorney general, is prosecuting Trane on behalf of the Lee County Attorney's Office.

Midwest Academy was permanently closed in January 2016 after federal, state and local authorities executed two search warrants searching for evidence related to the allegations outlined by Jerred and several other witnesses.

Trane, 39, was charged in September after a 19-month investigation into allegations of abuse at the private, for-profit boarding school in Keokuk. The school, which enrolled about 100 students from mostly well-off families across the United States, closed after the search warrants were executed. It has remained closed since that time.

In criminal complaints filed in South Lee County District Court against Trane, Joe Lestina, a special agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), alleged Trane abused his power to pursue sexual relationships with some students while enforcing policies that put others at risk by keeping them in isolation for days or weeks at a time.

Trane was released from the Lee County Jail several weeks after his arrest when a private citizen posted a $50,000 cash only bond on Trane's behalf.