Hate Crime Charges For Treating Disabled “Like Zoo Animals”

A Philadelphia woman, Linda Weston, and four others including her daughter, Jean McIntosh, have been charged with hate crimes and racketeering for allegedly enslaving at least four adults with developmental and mental disabilities to steal their Social Security benefit checks. A 196-count indictment charges that Weston was at the center of a “decade-long enterprise that targeted the most vulnerable of victims for alleged kidnapping, torture, sex-trafficking, and fraud.”

Weston allegedly took more than $212,000 in social security benefits from the victims over the course of a decade. 140 of the charges brought against her are fraud counts for allegedly stealing and cashing benefit checks and prosecutors have also added hate crime and murder charges which could lead to her facing the death penalty. The other defendants face up to life in prison.

Weston befriended her victims before luring them into captivity. Some were forced into prostitution and all had been starved, beaten and kept in chains when they were found locked in a Tacony basement in 2011. The full extent of what the victims endured was not revealed when police first discovered them. A year-long probe has revealed “stomach-turning details” of how they were “tied up and confined like zoo animals and treated like property akin to slaves,” as U.S. Zane David Memeger says. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer,

Weston and her associates starved and drugged [one] woman, previously identified as Maxine Lee, the indictment says, and routinely beat her with bats and sticks as they shuttled her and others from state to state to avoid detection and keep collecting disability checks.

In 2008, her captors allegedly stuffed Lee, then 39, into a cabinet under a kitchen sink in their Norfolk, Va., apartment. After Lee broke the cabinet door, Weston forced her to strip and locked her in the attic, where Lee slept naked on fiberglass insulation and was rarely fed, prosecutors said.

Malnourished and suffering from bacterial meningitis, Lee died in the apartment in November 2008. Weston then allegedly directed the others to move the body to a clean bedroom and arrange the scene to make it appear to police that Lee died naturally in bed.

As a parent of an autistic teenage son, I feel queasy reading about the alleged abuses committed by Weston and the others. But the horrific story also motivates me even more to advocate for programs, services and staff who can help and protect my son when my husband and I are no longer able to do so.

The hate crimes charges against Weston are the first made under the 2009 Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act for alleged crimes on behalf of an individual with mental disabilities. I am hopeful that the indictment against Weston and the others can send a powerful message about how and why we need to ensure that individuals with disabilities are cared for in full recognition of their humanity, dignity and rights as citizens, as human beings.

Related Care2 Coverage

4 Adults With Disabilities Chained Up In Social Security Scam

LGBT Hate Crime in Nebraska Spurs National Support for Victim

Can Autism Really Be Cured?

Photo from Thinkstock


Nikki Nelson
Nikki Hexum3 years ago

What a terrible representation of life this women is.

Lola B.
Lola Barello3 years ago


Sandra B.
Sandra Bilek3 years ago

Well, just spent a good bit of time reading all the news accounts I could find of this woman, Linda Weston. It is unbelievable that all these people she has abused over the years have slipped through the system. What is more unbelievable is that she was convicted of murder many years ago, and was still allowed to collect social security checks for disabled people, which is against the law. Clearly this is indicative of one of the many problems our society faces, as well as a Social Security system that is not able to keep up with people who are frauding the system. I hope the Feds stick with this 196 count indictment and pursue the death penalty for this woman, which she clearly deserves, and prosecute her accomplices to the fullest extent of the law.

Christine Jones
Christine J3 years ago

I don't believe in the politically correct term "hate crime". Who commits crimes against people they have fond, friendly feelings towards? It doesn't matter how you feel about your victim; a crime is a crime and should be punished as such. Having said that, it's very disturbing that perpetrators like those in the article exist; how can they sleep at night? Karma will surely give them a severe bite in the behind. All love and hugs to the poor victims and I hope they can go on to have good lives, being cared for by kind people.

Leanne Morin
Leanne M3 years ago

Disgusting and shameful.......

Lynn D.
Lynn D3 years ago

and, she didn't even have a gun! Thanks for interesting (and truly sad) article!

Mary L.
Mary L3 years ago

I feel nauseous. This is when I think an eye for an eye is a good idea.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin3 years ago

This is beyond horrible. What a totally egotistical, greedy and despicable thing to do to other human beings. I feel so sad to read about what happened to Ms. Lee.
No matter what punishment Linda Weston and the others will receive, it will not be enough. Unfortunately, law enforcement treat criminals better than how the latter treated their victims.
Lock her and the others up in a small cage surronded by traps and force them to listen to Bieber 24/7. That would be a portion of what punishment I think they should receive.

Patricia H.
Patricia H.3 years ago


David W.
David W.3 years ago

We are told that all the victims are (or were) persons with "developmental or mental disabilities". Where was the state all that time? Surely there should have been some oversight.