A grand jury in Philadelphia alleges that several disabled adults were confined in subhuman conditions in a scheme to steal their Social Security benefits, and that two people died as a result.
Linda Weston, 52, her daughter and three co-defendants are charged in a 196-count indictment. The indictment accuses Weston and her associates of carrying out a racketeering scheme that targeted victims with mental disabilities in order to steal their disability payments. Weston allegedly told the victims she'd provide them with a comfortable place to live if they made her the designated recipient of their Social Security disability payments. Once she became recipient, Weston and her associates allegedly forced the victims into captivity.
According to the indictment, Weston and her associates beat the victims, kept them captive in locked closets, basements and attics, deprived them of adequate food and medical care and moved them between Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Florida in order to escape law enforcement. The indictment states that some of the victims suffered the abuse from the fall of 2001 until October 15, 2011, when Philadelphia Police officers rescued them from a basement of an apartment in the Tacony section of the city. Weston and her associates allegedly victimized six disabled adults and four children.
Weston, her 33-year-old daughter Jean McIntosh, 49-year-old Gregory Thomas, Sr., 52-year-old Eddie Wright and 26-year-old Nicklaus Woodard are all charged in the indictment.
Weston is the alleged leader and organizer of the enterprise which operated from at least as early as Fall of 2001 through October of 2011. The indictment charges that Weston convinced all of the adult victims into living with her and controlled all aspects of their captivity.
Weston's daughter, Jean McIntosh, allegedly acted as her mother's right hand woman and assisted in confining, controlling, disciplining, housing and transporting the victims.
Gregory Thomas, Sr., allegedly assisted in obtaining, confining, controlling, housing and transporting the victims. The indictment states he installed locks on the doors and windows of every home where the victims were held to prevent them from escaping.
Eddie Wright allegedly assisted in confining, controlling, housing and transporting the victims. Nicklaus Woodard allegedly assisted in confining, controlling and disciplining the victims.
While holding the victims captive, Weston and her associates allegedly sedated them by putting drugs in their food and drink. They also allegedly served the victims a low calorie, high starch diet consisting exclusively of Ramen noodles, beans and stew. The indictment also states the meals were limited to one per day at the most. Finally, the defendants allegedly punished the victims through slapping, punching, kicking, stabbing, burning and hitting them with belts, sticks, bats, hammers and pistols.
The indictment alleges that this abuse caused the deaths of two people. According to the indictment, Weston met one victim in 2002 and lured her to come live with the family. Once she was in Weston's home, the victim was allegedly forced to cook, clean, wash clothes and babysit without compensation. The indictment states the victim was beaten whenever she tried to escape or when she begged for food and was not given medical attention for her injuries. When Weston moved the operation to Virginia in 2008, the victim died of bacterial meningitis and starvation, according to the indictment. Weston allegedly ordered other members of the household to move the victim's body to a bedroom and stage the scene before they called authorities. The next day, the family allegedly left for Philadelphia.
In April of 2005, Weston and Thomas allegedly targeted another victim who they spotted standing on a street corner. They allegedly brought the victim to a home on the 2200 block of Glenview Avenue in Philadelphia and kept him there with the other victims. The victim was fed a substandard diet and was not allowed to use the bathroom, according to the indictment. On June 26, 2005, the victim was found dead in the basement. Weston allegedly ordered members of the household to move the victim's body to a bedroom and stage an accidental overdose before calling law enforcement.
The indictment also alleges Weston forced two female captives to engage in prostitution while the operation ran in Texas and Florida.
The defendants are charged with murder in aid of racketeering, hate crime, conspiracy, kidnapping and other related offenses. If convicted, all five face a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison. Weston also potentially faces the death penalty as well as mandatory restitution of approximately $212,000 and special assessments.