Guilty Plea in Case of Disabled Adults Held in Subhuman Conditions
WASHINGTON—Linda Weston, 55, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty today to all charges in a racketeering and hate crimes case that involved holding disabled adults captive in locked closets, basements and attics in Philadelphia’s Tacony section and in other states. Weston pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, kidnapping resulting in the death of the victim, forced human labor, involuntary servitude, multiple counts of murder in aid of racketeering, hate crime, violent crime in aid of racketeering, sex trafficking, kidnapping, theft of government funds, wire fraud, mail fraud, use of a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime and false statements. U.S. District Court Judge Cynthia M. Rufe scheduled a sentencing hearing for Nov. 5, 2015. Weston has agreed to receive a sentence of life plus 80 years in prison, restitution, fines, supervised release, and special assessments.
From approximately 2001 through October 2011, Weston and her co-conspirators lured mentally handicapped individuals into locations rented by Weston, Jean McIntosh, Eddie Wright and others in Philadelphia; Killeen, Texas; Norfolk, Virginia; and West Palm Beach, Florida. The group targeted mentally challenged individuals who were estranged from their families. Once Weston convinced them to move in, she became their representative payee with Social Security and began to receive their disability benefits and in some instances, their state benefits. On one occasion, Weston and one of her co-defendants took the social security and identification documents from a victim by force and then used the funds for her own and Weston Family purposes.
Weston, McIntosh, Wright and others confined their victims to locked rooms, basements, closets, attics and apartments. While confined, the captives were often isolated, in the dark and sedated with drugs placed in their food and drink by Weston and other defendants. When the individuals tried to escape, stole food, or otherwise protested their treatment, Weston and others punished them by slapping, punching, kicking, stabbing, burning and hitting them with closed hands, belts, sticks, bats and hammers or other objects, including the butt of a pistol. Some victims endured the abuse for years, until Oct. 15, 2011, when Philadelphia Police officers rescued them from the sub-basement of an apartment building in the city’s Tacony section. The enterprise victimized six disabled adults and four children.
In April 2005, Weston and a co-defendant targeted victim Donna Spadea. They brought Spadea to a home at 2211 Glenview Ave., in Philadelphia. Spadea was kept in the basement with the other victims, fed a substandard diet and not allowed to use the bathroom. On June 26, 2005, Spadea was found dead in the basement. Weston ordered other members of the household to move Spadea’s body to a different location before calling law enforcement.
In 2008, victim Maxine Lee was living with the family. Lee was beaten when she tried to escape or when she begged for food and never received medical attention for any of her injuries. After Weston moved the enterprise to Virginia in 2008, Weston confined Lee inside a kitchen cabinet and an attic for several months. Lee subsequently died of bacterial meningitis and starvation in November of 2008. Weston ordered other members of the household to move Lee’s body to a bedroom and stage the scene before calling law enforcement. The next day the family left for Philadelphia.
Weston’s daughter, McIntosh, and co-defendant Wright have already pleaded guilty. Co-defendants Gregory Thomas, Sr., and Nicklaus Woodard are awaiting trial.
The case was investigated by the FBI, the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, IRS Criminal Investigations, the Philadelphia Police Department and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ West Palm Beach Field Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard P. Barrett and Faith Moore Taylor.