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Missing Girl Linked to Philly Basement Dungeon

ABC News(PHILADELPHIA) -- A Florida teenager who ran away to be with her boyfriend in Philadelphia was found by police investigating a basement dungeon in which four mentally handicapped adults were being imprisoned, according to police.

Benita Rodriguez, 15, was reported missing in July from her West Palm Beach home. She traveled to Philadelphia to be with her boyfriend, Gregory Thomas Jr., whom she met when they were neighbors in Florida, police said.

Police said they are not certain yet whether Rodriguez knew about the alleged kidnapping and imprisonment operation in the Thomas home, but suspect that she may have just been "hanging out."

The teenager was located by police Monday night and her mother was notified, according to ABC News affiliate WPVI.

"I just want to hold her and love her," Juana Rodriguez, the girl's mother, told WPVI. "I can breathe, I can breathe. She's doing good, she's okay."

The age of her boyfriend was not immediately available.

The boyfriend's father, Gregory Thomas, Sr., 47, is accused of having helped to traffic the imprisoned individuals from Florida to Philadelphia with his girlfriend, Linda Weston, 51, the suspected ringleader in the case.

Police have said that Weston and Thomas, with the help of a third man, Eddie Wright, may have stolen the identities and Social Security checks of at least 50 people whose documents they found inside the home where Weston and Thomas were living.

Possible victims include individuals from Virginia, Texas, Arizona, Kansas and Florida, they said.

Police say that Weston, who was previously sentenced to eight years in prison for locking a man in a closet until he died of starvation, may have begun trafficking and stealing identification documents shortly after being released from prison, police said. Authorities expect the investigation to uncover many more victims and a widespread fraud scheme.

The victims that were discovered in the Philadelphia basement have been identified as Herbert Knowles, 40, Tamara Breeden, 29, and Derwin McLemire, 41. A fourth man's name has not been released.

The victims are being treated at Philadelphia hospitals while their families are notified that they have been found, police said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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