A Georgia pastor has been arrested on charges of false imprisonment after police found eight individuals locked up in the basement of his home.
The Griffin City police department said that Curtis Bankston, 55, and his wife Sophie, 54, were operating “an unlicensed group home or personal care facility under the guise of a church known as One Step of Faith Second Chance”.
The couple had taken control of the imprisoned individuals’ finances and medication as well as public benefits.
Police said that all eight individuals who had been imprisoned were mentally and/or physically disabled.
“It is 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,” the police said in a press release.
Police said that they started investigating the case after the Griffin fire department received a call from emergency medical services (EMS) on 13 January that they needed assistance to help a patient having a seizure.
When the EMS and the fire department officials arrived at the pastor’s house, they found that the door to the basement had been double locked and that the patient had to be accessed through a window to the basement.
“Preliminary information indicated that as many as eight individuals resided in the basement of this residence and they were ‘locked in’ at certain times by the ‘caretakers’,” the police said.
The couple had been leasing the house for fourteen months and using the basement as a personal care home for the individuals, “which essentially imprisoned them against their will, which created an extreme hazard as the individuals could not exit the residence if there were an emergency,” the police statement added.
The individuals have been placed under suitable care by the Department of Human Services, police said.
While Mr Bankston is in Spalding County jail, charges will soon be brought against his wife as well, police said.