A Philadelphia woman who kept mentally disabled adults locked in the basement of her home so that she could collect and cash their disability checks was sentenced to life plus 80 years in prison Thursday.
Linda Weston, 55, pleaded guilty in September to all 196 counts against her, which included kidnapping, racketeering, conspiracy and murder in aid of racketeering, hate crimes, sex trafficking and fraud, Philly.com reports. Two women who had been held in Weston's basement later died.
According to the news site, Weston's horrific scheme was uncovered in October 2011 after her landlord discovered four adults, one of whom was chained to a boiler, in the basement of her home. The landlord contacted police, who learned that Weston used "cunning, trickery, force and coercion" to convince the disabled adults to list Weston as their caretaker. Weston then collected and cashed the victims' Social Security checks, totaling some $212,000 over 10 years.
Investigators found that from 2001 to 2011, Weston, her daughter and three others kept six adults and four children locked in the basement, attic or closets of her home. Prosecutors said Weston often starved her victims, and when she did feed them, food and drinks were often laced with sedatives, Philly.com reports.
"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," prosecutors said, Philly.com reports.
When Weston and her family lived in Texas and Florida, Weston reportedly forced two of the women in her care into prostitution.
Philly.com reports that two other defendants have pleaded guilty in the case and two more are awaiting trial.
During her sentencing, Weston apologized: "I believe in God and God knows what happened."
To which, according to Philly.com, U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe replied, "There are a lot of people in this courtroom who know what happened, too."
Read more at Philly.com.