A Georgia pastor was arrested on charges of false imprisonment after police discovered eight people, all of them either mentally or physically disabled, locked in the basement of his home.
Curtis Bankston and his 54-year-old wife Sophie are accused of operating “an unlicensed group home or personal care facility under the guise of a church known as One Step of Faith Second Chance,” according to a press release from the Griffin City police department.
Authorities discovered the imprisoned group early the morning of Jan. 13, after firefighters were called to a home along Valley Road to help paramedics treat a resident having a seizure.
When they arrived on the scene around 7 a.m., first responders discovered a door leading down to the basement was dead-bolted. They had to force their way in through a window to gain access to the suffering patient, according to authorities.
Officers with the Griffin City police department were also called to the scene. A preliminary investigation revealed “as many as eight people resided in the basement of this residence and they were ‘locked in’ at certain times by the ‘caretakers.’”
Police said the couple had been leasing the house for 14 months, using the basement as a care facility for individuals, and “essentially imprisoned them against their will.” In an event of an emergency, the victims would not have been able to escape the home, according to authorities.
The pair also took control of their victims’ finances and medication as well as public benefits.
“It is both frightening and disgusting to see the degree to which these individuals have been taken advantage of by people who were in a position of trust,” authorities said in the press release.
All the individuals affected have been placed by the Georgia Department of Human Services into suitable care and housing.
Bankston remained in behind bars on Thursday in the Spalding County Jail. Officers said charges against his wife are forthcoming, with additional charges expected for both.
[via New York Daily News]