A West Palm Beach man and four others have been indicted in Philadelphia for beating and locking several mentally disabled people in basement dungeons in three states for years at a time to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars of Social \Security benefits.
The 196-count indictment accuses West Palm Beach's Nicklaus Woodard, 26, of using drugs, isolation, food deprivation and pistol-whipping to help keep prisoners subdued. The group ran the dungeons -- places where mentally challenged inmates were threatened, starved and drugged -- in Killeen, Texas; West Palm Beach; and Virginia.
Linda Weston, 52, was charged as the ring leader and four others have been accused of hate crimes, kidnapping, murder in aid of racketeering, and forced labor. Prosecutors allege Weston ran the ring for more than a decade while stealing $212,000 from the Social Security Administration. Prosecutors also allege the dungeons led to the death of two people.
Among the charges against Woodard are one count of conspiracy, four counts of hate crimes, nine counts of kidnapping, four counts of violent crime in aid of racketeering. If found guilty all five would face mandatory life sentences. He also used "threats of force, violence and rape to create a climate of fear and maintain control of the mentally disabled captives," according to the indictment.
Woodward and Weston eventually became a Bonnie-and-Clyde-like couple after starting a relationship in mid-2010.
"Weston deprived [a victim] of adequate nutrition by serving him a low calorie, high starch diet consisting exclusively of Ramen noodles... and generally limited him to one meal a day," according the indictment. The two then took the victims social security card at gunpoint.
The indictment also alleges that Weston forced two females into prostitution while they were being held in West Palm Beach.