After uncovering a grotesque series of crimes lasting over a decade, five people have been accused of imprisoning disabled adults in a basement in Philadelphia to steal their Social Security benefits.
Victims in the dungeon case, as it is now called, were held against their will in a dark basement for over a decade, and at times chained, drugged, and starved. Two of the captives died over the course of the decade, one from bacterial meningitis and starvation and the other also likely from starvation.
Linda Weston, 52, is considered the alleged ringleader by authorities and faces the death penalty due to the two deaths. The other defendants face life in prison, according to U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger, who spoke at a press conference while describing the 196-count indictment. All of the victims suffered from mental deficiencies, roughly equal to the mental capacity of 10-year-old children.
The victims were discovered in October of 2011 by a landlord doing a routine check of his apartment building. Authorities did not release details on how many victims there were, but Weston had come in contact with them in different ways — one she picked up on a street corner, another was her niece.
Weston and her conspirators gathered about $212,000 over 10 years in disability payments. In addition to that, Weston forced two of the female captives to have sex for money, which Weston pocketed.
Four of the defendants, including Weston and her daughter, have already been charged but a fifth, Nicklaus Woodward, was arrested Wednesday in Florida.