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Woman Pleads Guilty in Human Captive Scheme

(CN) - A Pennsylvania woman admitted on Wednesday to locking disabled adults in closets, basements and attics so she could get their disability benefits, at the expense of two lives.

Linda Weston of Philadelphia pleaded guilty to a myriad of charges including racketeering conspiracy, multiple counts of murder in aid of racketeering, hate crime, kidnapping, sex trafficking, wire and mail fraud, forced labor, involuntary servitude, and multiple kidnapping counts.

The U.S. Justice Department says Weston, 55, lured mentally disabled individuals into properties rented by her and co-conspirators in Philadelphia, Norfolk, Va., West Palm Beach, Fla., and Killeen, Texas. The victims were then confined to locked rooms, basements, closets and attics, according to the government.

"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," a Justice Department press release states. "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."

Once the captives moved in to the rented properties, Weston became their Social Security representative payee and received their disability benefits, according to the press release.

One victim, Donna Spadea, was reportedly kept in the basement of a Philadelphia home and not allowed to use the bathroom. She was found dead in June 2005.

Another captive, Maxine Lee, died of bacterial meningitis and starvation in November 2008 after being locked in a kitchen cabinet and an attic for several months, the government says.

The abuse ended on Oct. 15, 2011, when Philadelphia police rescued captives from an apartment building in the city's Tacony section. In total, the Justice Department says Weston's enterprise victimized six adults and four children.

Weston has already agreed to a sentence of life plus 80 years in prison as well as fines and restitution, according to the government. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 5, 2015.

Co-defendants Jean McIntosh and Eddie Wright have already pleaded guilty in the scheme. Two others, Gregory Thomas Sr. and Nicklaus Woodard, are awaiting trial.

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