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Monday
Oct172011

Alleged Basement Dungeon Ringleader Linked to 50 People in Three States

Philadelphia Police Dept(PHILADELPHIA) -- The woman accused of keeping four handicapped adults chained in a Philadelphia basement and stealing their Social Security checks may have done the same thing to victims in Florida, Virginia and Texas, Philadelphia police said Monday.

Lt. Roy Evers says a search of suspect Linda Ann Weston's personal belongings turned up documents belonging to 50 persons. The documents included driver's licenses, Social Security cards and even power of attorney forms filled out to allow Weston access to the victims' money.

Evers says police believe that Weston, 51, and her alleged co-conspirators, Eddie Wright, 49, and Thomas Gregory, 47, were carrying out a "widespread fraud scheme," and that police are now trying to contact the persons who gave up those IDs. When asked if there was evidence that anyone else was currently being held captive, Evers said, "We don't think so, but we have to make sure everyone is safe."

Police are also checking McLean, Texas, because some of the documents they found indicated that previous victims came from that area. Texas is also Wright's home state. Other addresses were being checked in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Norfolk, Va.

In 1981, Weston was convicted of starving a man to death in a closet of her Philadelphia home.
She was charged with beating the man with a hammer, tying him up in a closet with only three meals over the course of two months, and beating him with broomsticks, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. When he died, his body was stuffed into a plastic bag and dumped in an abandoned house, according to the newspaper. Weston served eight years in prison.

Weston, her boyfriend Wright, and Gregory are now charged with locking up four mentally handicapped individuals in the basement of an apartment building in Philadelphia. Police allege that the three trafficked the victims from Texas to Florida to Philadelphia, where they held them in Weston's daughter's apartment building.

The victims were discovered by the building's owner, who noticed an unusual amount of trash on the property and the locked basement door. He heard dogs barking behind the door, and when he opened it, discovered the chained individuals looking distressed, according to the Philadelphia police.
The victims are believed to have been in the 6-by-10-foot boiler room for about 10 days. The female captive had been reported missing since 2005.

Weston, Wright and Gregory are charged with criminal conspiracy, aggravated assault, trespassing, kidnapping, simple assault, reckless endangerment of persons, unlawful restraint, and false imprisonment.

Police are still deciding whether the case will be turned over to federal authorities because of the multi-state criminal charges, according to a spokeswoman.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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