PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- A mother and daughter and three men were charged Wednesday in a federal indictment in Philadelphia with enslaving disabled people.
Federal prosecutors say Linda Weston, the alleged mastermind of the scheme, and the other suspects would promise to provide alleged victims with comfortable living quarters. Once the alleged victims made Weston the designated beneficiary of Social Security or disability checks they were allegedly starved, beaten and in some cases forced to prostitute themselves.
Two of the alleged victims died.
"Shocking does not begin to describe the criminal allegations in this case where the victims were tied up and confined like zoo animals and treated like property akin to slaves," U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said.
The 196-count indictment includes charges of racketeering, conspiracy, murder in aid of conspiracy, sex trafficking, forced human labor and hate crimes.
Philadelphia police found several mentally disabled people in a basement in October 2011. Investigators say Weston and the others attempted to evade detection by moving between Killeen, Texas, West Palm Beach, Fla., Virginia and Philadelphia.
In addition to Weston, the defendants named in the indictment are her daughter Jean McIntosh, described as her mother's "right-hand man," Gregory Thomas Sr., Eddie Wright and Nicklaus Woodard.