The following recent news story just serves to highlight how vulnerable disabled people often are and how easily exploited and mistreated by others lacking in compassion. It is evident that some individuals in the world have no scruples at all in the way they treat people over whom they have some kind of power, such as those with physical or mental handicaps (this is clear from the types of abuse that are reported to occur regularly in nursing homes). However now that the details have come to light, justice can be sought for the victims and it may help to offer people in the same circumstances more protection at law.
Recent news reports from Philadelphia describe the arrest of a local woman, Linda Weston, and four others, which included her daughter, Jean Mackintosh, in connection with shocking abuse and exploitation of disabled people. This gang has recently been charged with hate crimes and running a racket to profit from disabled adults. These four people, the victims, all had severe developmental and mental disabilities, which made it easy for this gang to enslave them and steal their Social Security checks.
The court indictment, comprising some 196-charges, alleges that Weston was the centre of this operation over a decade, which involved numerous crimes against vulnerable people. It appears that Weston took some $212,000 in Social Security benefit checks over this 10-year period, and 140 of the charges against her relate to this large-scale benefit fraud. The prosecutors have also added other even more charges to the indictment, regarding the way these people were abused by their captors.
It appears that Weston befriended her victims and lured them back to her home so that she could then keep them captive and defraud them of their benefits. They were being treated as property, in the same way as slaves.
The details of the treatment were reported in the Philadelphia Enquirer, and it would be too upsetting to readers to describe them in full. Suffice it to say that terrible abuse was perpetrated against the victims, and all this time they were moved around from state to state so that Weston and her associates could avoid being found out and keep collecting the disability checks by fraud.
Weston and her gang are being charged with these types of crimes under the 2009 Shephard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the first charges of their kind against people disabled in this way, i.e. individuals with mental disabilities. Let us all hope that this case helps to serve as a deterrent to others who behave in this abhorrent way towards those with disabilities, to show that abuse of this vulnerable group of people will not be tolerated in our society. It seems that this could well be a landmark case, in achieving more legal protection for the disabled.