By Dave Warner
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A fourth person was charged on Wednesday in the kidnapping of four mentally challenged adults held captive in a Philadelphia basement dungeon in what authorities say was a multi-state scheme to steal Social Security checks.
Authorities also took into custody 10 children and teens, at least one of them a relative of the suspects who was reported missing in 2009. They were being evaluated at a hospital for signs of abuse or malnutrition.
"A few of them appeared to be underweight," said a police spokeswoman.
Police were trying to determine if the children and teens were being held against their will like the malnourished adults, each of whom has the mental capacity of a 10-year-old child.
The fourth person charged is Jean McIntosh, 32, whose mother Linda Ann Weston, 51, was also arrested, according to the district attorney's office. In addition to kidnapping, Jean McIntosh is charged with unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, aggravated assault, simple assault, burglary and trespass.
More than 30 years ago, Linda Ann Weston was convicted of starving to death a 25-year-old man in her apartment in North Philadelphia and served eight years in prison, authorities said.
Police say there may be as many as 50 victims in multiple states in the case that broke over the weekend after the four captives were discovered locked in a filthy basement, one of them chained to a furnace. They were found by the landlord during a check of the two-story apartment house in the working class Tacony neighborhood.
During the investigation, police located at an undisclosed location in Philadelphia six children between the ages of 2 and 16, and four older teens, ages 18 and 19, who they believe may be tied to the case and may be relatives of the suspects.
"They are looking to see what the relationship is," a police spokeswoman said.
One of the 10 is Beatrice Weston, 19, a niece of Linda Ann Weston. Beatrice Weston was reported missing in 2009 in Philadelphia. She was discovered in another Philadelphia neighborhood of Frankford.
Arrested with Linda Ann Weston were Gregory Thomas, 47, of North Philadelphia, and Eddie Wright, 50, who is homeless, police said. All three were charged with criminal conspiracy, aggravated assault, kidnapping, criminal trespass, unlawful restraint and false imprisonment.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)