Follow CBSPHILLY Facebook | Twitter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — A Philadelphia woman who had a role in kidnapping, torturing and enslaving disabled adults discovered chained up in a basement was sentenced Tuesday to 40 years in federal prison in the “Basement of Horrors” case.
Jean McIntosh, 38, sat in the federal courtroom as the government produced several victim impact statements about the lasting effect of the abuse they had endured. Law enforcement officials said McIntosh helped prosecutors build a case against her mother, Linda Weston, the ringleader of the group that held victims captive for years in a cramped, Philadelphia basement in an effort to steal more than $200,000 in government benefits.
“The Weston racketeering enterprise committed unspeakable acts against innocent and vulnerable members of our community,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross in a statement. “An intensive inter-agency investigation resulted in the arrests and successful prosecutions of multiple offenders. With the arrest, conviction, and impending sentencing of Jean McIntosh, we sincerely hope that a feeling of closure can commence for the victims and their families.”
Weston previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison plus 80 years to avoid the death penalty. Her lawyers said the woman had suffered years of similar abuse when she was a child.
In all, five people were charged with 196 counts, after police rescued four people from the basement in October 2011. Details of the squalid conditions, physical abuse and forced prostitution shocked Philadelphia and the country as the full breadth of the allegations were released in charging documents.
On Tuesday, McIntosh, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to racketeering, kidnapping, fraud and hate crimes, held a tissue to her mouth as videos of some of the victims were played.
“I can’t take it back now,” she said when granted a moment to speak. “But I truly wish with my whole heart that I could. I participated in hurting you all. I am truly, truly sorry.”
Prosecutors said Weston, McIntosh and three other members of what they have called the “Weston family” coerced and pressured some of the mentally disabled captives into making Weston their designated payees for their benefits. They shuttled the captives between several states to avoid being caught, and often locked them in basements, closets and other confined spaces, feeding them minimal food often spiked with sedatives.
One of McIntosh and Weston’s earliest victims testified that she was forced to have children with another captive. She said Weston and McIntosh ripped the baby from her arms at the hospital and told her he had died. She found out later that McIntosh was saying the baby was hers and claiming benefits for the child.
“It is hard to fathom this kind of disregard for the dignity of human life,” said U.S. Attorney William McSwain. “The stomach-turning details of this case and unspeakable acts of cruelty McIntosh inflicted on her helpless victims serve as a stark reminder that pure evil does exist in the world. My sincere hope is that today’s sentence brings some measure of closure to the victims and their families.”
She told the court that she is working to build a relationship with her children, who found out in 2011 that she was their biological mother.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)