PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Four years ago, Philadelphia police found four adults locked in what’s been called a “basement of horrors” with no food and only a bucket for a toilet, authorities said.
A small group of captors led by Linda Weston had beaten the victims, kept them chained and captive in locked closets, basements and attics, deprived them of adequate food and medical care, and moved them between Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Florida, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Philadelphia said in a statement.
The purpose: To steal their Social Security and disability payments, authorities said.
**For previous coverage of this story, click the video player above.**
Weston, 55, of Philadelphia was punished on Thursday. A federal judge sentenced her to life in prison plus 80 years. She was ordered to make restitution of $273,463 to the Social Security Administration and pay $19,600 in a special assessment.
The enterprise victimized six disabled adults and four children from 2001 to 2011, prosecutors said.
Weston and her group allegedly befriended mentally challenged individuals who were estranged from their families. After those people moved into housing provided by Weston, she became their representative payee for Social Security and disability benefits, prosecutors said.
“While confined, the captives were often isolated, in the dark, and sedated with drugs placed in their food and drink by Weston and other defendants,” prosecutors said. “When the individuals tried to escape, stole food, or otherwise protested their treatment, Weston and others punished them by slapping, punching, kicking, stabbing, burning and hitting them with closed hands, belts, sticks, bats, and hammers or other objects, including the butt of a pistol.”
Two people died. Weston told the other people in her ring to move the bodies to other locations before contacting police, the statement said.
Weston pleaded guilty earlier to racketeering conspiracy, kidnapping resulting in the death of the victim, forced human labor, involuntary servitude, multiple counts of murder in aid of racketeering, hate crime, violent crime in aid of racketeering, sex trafficking, kidnapping, theft of government funds, wire fraud, mail fraud, use of a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime and false statements.
Her daughter, Jean McIntosh, and co-defendant Eddie Wright previously pleaded guilty. Co-defendants Gregory Thomas, Sr., and Nicklaus Woodard are awaiting trial.