The woman accused of imprisoning several disabled adults in the basement of a Tacony apartment building in order to steal their government benefits checks pleaded guilty last Wednesday to federal murder, racketeering, fraud and hate crimes charges.
From about 2001 through October 2011, Linda Weston, 55, and several co-conspirators lured mentally challenged people to live with them in rental homes and apartments in Philadelphia, Texas, Virginia and Florida. Once Weston convinced the victims to move in, she conned them into naming her as their representative payee for Social Security benefits and, in some cases, state benefits, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Weston and her co-conspirators used violence and threats to perpetuate the racket. They confined victims to locked rooms, basements, closets, attics and apartments, isolated them in the dark, sedated them with drugs, beat them, stabbed them and burnt them with various weapons and their bare hands.
Authorities identified six adult and four child victims. One malnourished and neglected victim died in April 2005 while living with Weston on the 2200 block of Glenview St., before a second victim died of bacterial meningitis and starvation in November 2008 while living with Weston in Norfolk, Virginia.
Some victims endured years of abuse before Philadelphia police discovered and rescued them from an apartment building on Longshore Avenue in October 2011. In addition to Weston, co-defendants Jean McIntosh (Weston’s daughter) and Eddie Wright have pleaded guilty, while Gregory Thomas Sr. and Nicklaus Woodard are awaiting trial.
Weston pleaded guilty to racketeering, kidnapping resulting in death, forced human labor, involuntary servitude, murder in the aid of racketeering, hate crime, violent crime in the aid of racketeering, sex trafficking, kidnapping, theft, fraud, use of a firearm in a crime of violence and making false statements. As part of a plea agreement, Weston will be sentenced to life plus 80 years in prison, restitution and fines. ••