Tuesday 17 January 2017

Woman charged with chaining mentally ill adults in her basement and stealing their money

Independent.ie reporters

Published 18/10/2011 | 11:12

The dank sub-basement room in Philadelphia where four weak and malnourished mentally disabled adults, one chained to the boiler were found at the weekend. Photo: AP
The dank sub-basement room in Philadelphia where four weak and malnourished mentally disabled adults, one chained to the boiler were found at the weekend. Photo: AP
Police arrested three adults including the person accused of being the ringleader, Linda Ann Weston, in what authorities say is a scheme to steal their disability cheques. Photo: AP

POLICE in the US fear that as many as 50 mentally challenged people may have been kidnapped by a gang who chained them and stole their social security cheques.

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Three people have been charged with kidnapping after four people, one woman and three men, with mental disabilities were found chained in the basement of a Philadelphia apartment building at the weekend. The discovery was made by the building’s landlord who uncovered the chained people, starving and lying in their own filth in a 10 foot by 15 foot room. He told reporters “It was terrible. Something I will never get over seeing.”

A woman who has been charged with the crimes had previously served an eight year prison sentence for locking a man in her closet and starving him to death. Linda Ann Weston, a mother of two, rented the Philadelphia apartment earlier in the month, but police believe she had been holding the people for much longer. She is reported to have moved to Philadelphia from Texas, and investigators are tracking her movements before that in Florida and Virginia.

Police discovered documents, passports and signed power of attorney forms for dozens of people when they raided the Philadelphia apartment where Weston’s two children live.

Investigators believe Weston, and two other men have been involved in a "widespread fraud scheme," and are tracing the whereabouts of the people whose documents they have discovered.

"She might have been doing this for years, probably since she got out of prison," a police spokesman said . "You can't get any lower than how they preyed on these people," he added. The FBI have been called in to trace other victims of the gang.

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