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Philly police: Disabled victimized by theft scheme

October 18, 2011 • National News


In this undated photo provided by the Philadelphia Police Department, Herbert Knowles smiles. Knowles has been identified by police as one of four mentally disabled persons locked in the squalid basement of a Philadelphia building. Police said four mentally disabled adults were rescued from the basement of the northeast Philadelphia apartment building on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011, after the landlord shined a flashlight behind a steel door that had been chained shut. One victim had been shackled to the boiler, police said. Detectives have been able to make contact with the families of three of the victims, but were still trying to reach the family of Knowles, (AP Photo/Philadelphia Police Department)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The landlord of the apartment building at first thought a circuit breaker had tripped when he went to the basement Saturday and found all the lights were out. Then he realized all six bulbs had been removed, and he heard dogs barking inside a boiler room, its door chained shut.

He removed the chain, stepped into the dank, foul-smelling room and lifted a pile of blankets. Several sets of human eyes stared back at him.

Turgut Gozleveli had stumbled upon four mentally disabled adults, all weak and malnourished, and one chained to the boiler.

He may have also stumbled upon a vast scheme — stretching from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Va.; West Palm Beach, Fla., and Texas — to steal the Social Security disability checks of defenseless and vulnerable people, authorities said.

Philadelphia police on Saturday arrested three adults staying in an apartment upstairs, including the person accused of being the ringleader, Linda Ann Weston, who had been convicted of murder in a 1981 starvation death.

Detectives also found dozens of ID cards, power-of-attorney forms and other documents in the apartment, suggesting the theft scheme involved more than just the four captives.

“Without a doubt. This is just the beginning of this investigation,” Login to read more

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