When police first discovered the basement of Linda Ann Weston in the Tacony neighborhood of Philadelphia in 2011, they were horrified. They found a mentally disabled person chained to a furnace and three other adults hiding under filthy blankets and rags. The captives didn’t have access to food or water. Signs of abuse were everywhere, and when police went to the apartment upstairs, they uncovered starved and neglected children who begged not to be taken away for fear of punishment.
Weston kidnapped several people and held them against their will for financial gain in the 2000s. The Linda Ann Weston abuse case also became known as the "Philadelphia Dungeon Kidnapping" and the "Basement of Horrors." While some kidnapping cases are similar to this incident, the details of Weston’s case allowed prosecutors to convict the captor - and her accomplices, including Weston’s daughter - on 196 counts. The state even dropped initial charges so that federal prosecutors could get the group on additional counts of hate crimes and human trafficking.
On November 13, 2018, one of the women held captive in the basement, Tamara Breeden, spoke out about her time locked up in Weston's basement. Weston and her accomplices kidnapped Breeden in 2001, after Weston said she was going to hire the woman as a babysitter. Breeden was rescued in 2011, but the years in held captive in Weston’s Philadelphia house still haunts her.
Speaking with NBC10, Breeden talked briefly about how her faith kept her strong:
I kept praying to Jesus and praying to God that I could get back home to my family. I thought I was going to die there [...] I see my scars every time, but I say to God, I am still beautiful and I am still alive.
For over a decade, Weston routinely beat Breeden with bats, forced her into prostitution, and coerced her into pregnancy to later abduct the children after birth.
Weston may have been the ringleader, but she certainly did not act alone. Her group of scammers and abusers consisted of Eddie Wright and Gregory Thomas, and they worked together in order to cash the government checks meant for their victims. She even used her own daughter, Jean McIntosh, in order to make the scheme work.
The perpetrators would subjugate the victims, sometimes luring them in through an online dating service. Then they would trick - or more often force - the mentally disabled victims to designate Weston as their caretaker, which allowed her to cash their checks. Investigators found the family received approximately $212,000 in Social Security checks from 2001 to 2011.
In August 2018, the court sentenced McIntosh to 40 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to fraud and her involvement with Weston's crimes.
Weston was living in the Tacony neighborhood of Philadelphia when she began abducting people for financial gain. When authorities first discovered this "Basement of Horrors" in 2011, there were four adult victims in captivity - Tamara Breeden, Derwin McLemire, Herbert Knowles, and Edwin Sanabria - ranging in ages from late 20s to early 40s.
Two were found hiding under a blanket, one was found in an old sleeping bag, and one was chained to a radiator; all of them showing signs of abuse and neglect. More details quickly came out, as victims told horror stories of being beaten, shot with pellet guns, starved, and even being forced to drink their own urine in order to stay alive.
Weston and her accomplices kept the victims in a small basement of an apartment building until the property manager, Turgot Gozleveli, unearthed the crimes. He noticed bowls of water and assumed someone was keeping a pet in the no-pets-allowed complex. But when he unlocked the basement door, he found not only two small dogs, but four very frightened adults in a cramped basement barely big enough for them to lie down.
Weston and her accomplices targeted mentally disabled individuals, which they reportedly did for several reasons. Weston revealed that disabled people were easier to control and more trusting. They could be lured in from street corners with promises of friendship or romantic involvement. Once captive, they were less likely to escape or get help.
The main reason, however, was they got funding from the government. This meant the more people Weston held captive, the more checks she could cash in place of the disabled victims. The four initial victims found in the basement of the apartment building all had various disabilities, and their checks were being used as Weston's income.