Woman gets life in prison in Tacony dungeon case

Linda Weston

The Philadelphia woman who admitted to imprisoning and torturing mentally disabled adults in four states over a decade in order to steal their government benefits was ordered last week to spend the rest of her life in federal prison.

Linda Weston, 55, was sentenced to life plus 80 years for orchestrating the cold-hearted scheme and causing the deaths of two of her captives. Weston had pleaded guilty in September to two counts of murder, in addition to other racketeering-related and hate crimes. The sentencing went ahead as scheduled last Thursday, although Weston had submitted a handwritten request with U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe last month asking to change her plea, according to one published news report.

Weston’s reign of abuse came to an end in October 2011 when police who were investigating a barking dog found several of her victims locked in the dark, dank and soiled sub-basement of a Tacony apartment building. One of the captives was chained by the ankle to a heating unit.

In addition to the prison term, Rufe ordered Weston to pay restitution of $273,463 to the U.S. Social Security Administration and a $19,600 special assessment. But clearly Weston will be in no position to pay those monetary penalties in her lifetime.

“From approximately 2001 through October 2011, Linda Weston and her co-conspirators lured mentally disabled individuals into locations rented by (the conspirators) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Killeen, Texas; Norfolk, Virginia; and West Palm Beach, Florida,” said the U.S. Attorney’s Office in a printed statement. “Weston and the co-conspirators targeted mentally challenged individuals who were estranged from their families. Once Linda 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.”

The federal prosecutor identified Weston’s daughter, Jean McIntosh, as one conspirator, as well as Eddie Wright. Both have also pleaded guilty in the case and await sentencing. Weston’s boyfriend, Gregory Thomas Sr., along with Nicklaus Woodard await trial in the case.

The defendants “confined their victims to locked rooms, basements, closets, attics and apartments,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “While confined, the captives were often isolated, in the dark, and sedated with drugs placed in their food and drink by Weston and the 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 abuse for years.”

Prosecutors believe that the defendants victimized six adults and four children over the years. One victim, Maxine Lee, died of bacterial meningitis and starvation while in Weston’s captivity in Virginia in November 2008. Donna Spadea died in the basement of 2211 Glenview Ave. in Castor Gardens in June 2005 after Weston had been feeding her a substandard diet and preventing her from using the bathroom, the prosecutor’s office said. ••