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Eight members of religious group charged with forced labor of minors

Eight members of religious group charged with forced labor of minors
The Justice Department announced Wednesday that eight leaders of the United Nation of Islam have been charged with operating a forced labor conspiracy for more than a decade. File Pool Photo by Win McNamee/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 28 (UPI) -- The Justice Department has announced an eight-count indictment against eight people affiliated with a religious organization on charges of operating a nationwide, decade-long forced labor conspiracy involving children.

The indictment announced by the Justice Department on Wednesday details how eight members of the United Nation of Islam, headquartered in Kansas City, Kan., coerced their victims, including minors, to work unpaid, sometimes up to 16 hours a day, at UNOI businesses from 2000 to 2012.

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The charging document states the organization operated at least 10 businesses, mostly restaurants and bakeries, but also a gas station and a clothing store, located in Kansas City, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Georgia and North Carolina.

The organization -- which was founded by Royall Jenkins who referred to himself as Allah, or God -- recruited hundreds of full-time members who lived in its housing and worked without pay at its businesses.

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Among its forced workers were children who joined the organization with their parents, said the complaint, which identifies 10 minors.

The charging document said parents were enticed to send their children to the organization by the promise of an education and the development of life skills through working at its businesses. However, the organization did not inform the parents that their children would work extended hours without pay, sometimes in lieu of attending school, nor were they informed when their children were sent to work at businesses around the country.

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The children, the document states, received no legitimate education in return.

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Among the coercive practices the defendants employed were requiring the victims to ask permission to speak. They were also prohibited from uttering such words as "hello" and "say" while generally being barred from speaking to members of the opposite sex.

They were also forced to shower in a specific fashion and undergo colonics where an adult member would cleanse their colons by pouring water down a tube inserted into their rectums, the document said.

The victims were also restricted to eating only bean soup, salad and occasionally fruit during their two meals a day, prosecutors said, adding that those ordered to be "cleansed" only drank lemon juice for days.

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"Jenkin's wives subjected female victims to weekly weigh-ins where they would humiliate the victims for their weight and subsequently make them fast," the document states.

The workers, the document said, lived in crowded dormitories called "temples" and followed "a very restricted diet," all while working at UNOI-operated businesses, while the accused and their families "resided in spacious accommodations, ate what they wanted and worked at their own discretion."

The eight organization leaders charged were identified as Kaaba Majeed, 47; Yunus Rassoul, 36; James Staton, 59; Daniel Aubrey Jenkins, 40; Randolph Rodney Hadley, 46; Jacelyn Greenwell, 42; Etenia Kinard, 46; and Dana Peach, 57.

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If convicted they face up to 20 years each in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 for forced labor and up to five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy to commit forced labor.

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