Authorities say Linda Ann Weston and two others locked four mentally disabled victims in the basement of a northeast Philadelphia apartment building in a plot to profit from their Social Security disability checks.
The suspected ringleader of an alleged Social Security fraud scheme in which police say mentally disabled people were held captive in a basement may not completely understand the seriousness of the charges against her, her lawyer said Monday.
Linda Ann Weston, 51, along with her boyfriend, Gregory Thomas, 47, and Eddie "the Rev. Ed" Wright, 50, are charged with kidnapping, assault, false imprisonment and other counts. At a brief initial court appearance Monday, Municipal Judge Felice Rowley Stack scheduled a preliminary hearing for Dec. 19.
The suspects, all of whom are in custody, did not appear in court. A fourth person, Weston's daughter, Jean McIntosh, 32, is also charged and has a hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
George S. Yacoubian Jr., a lawyer who represents Weston, said after the hearing that he has met with the woman and plans to do a more comprehensive interview to evaluate her mental state.
He declined to comment on if she had a history of mental issues, but said a competency examination would be a good idea.
"I don't know if she understands what the allegations are," Yacoubian said outside court.
"Overall, she’s fatigued. She appears to be in relatively good spirits and that's all I’m going to say [about] her state of mind at this point," Yacoubian said of Weston, MyFoxPhilly.com reports.
The victims, who authorities say have the mental capacity of 10-year-olds, were discovered by a landlord at a Philadelphia apartment building on Oct. 15. They were malnourished and one was chained to a boiler, according to police.
Eight children and four young adults linked to the defendants were taken into protective custody.
Weston, Thomas and Wright had recently moved into the building in the city's Tacony section with Weston's daughter, McIntosh.
Police are investigating the whereabouts of 50 more possible victims after the mentally challenged victims were found in the basement dungeon in what local media has called a "house of horrors."
Perry de Marco Jr., a lawyer who represents Thomas, said he met with his client for about three hours but still has little information.
"He was extremely worried," de Marco said after the hearing.
Louis D'Onofrio, an attorney for Wright, did not immediately respond to a telephone message after the hearing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Lawyer: Horror Ringleader In Good Spirits: MyFoxPHILLY.com