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Woman gets life plus 80 years in Philly "Basement of horrors" case

PHILADELPHIA -- The woman at the center of what became known as the Tacony "basement of horrors" case in Philadelphia has been sentenced to life plus 80 years in prison, CBS Philadelphia reports.

Prosecutors had argued that Linda Weston, 55, and four others held people captive in Philadelphia, Texas, Virginia and Florida from 2001 to 2011, when four victims were found in a basement in the Tacony section of the city.

Prosecutors said Weston and her co-conspirators lured mentally disabled people into rented locations, especially targeting people who were estranged from their families.

She arranged to receive their benefits and forced two female victims into prostitution to earn more money for the family when they lived in Texas and Florida, authorities said.

Authorities said Weston forced two female victims into prostitution to earn more money for the family when they lived in Texas and Florida.

Two other women died while living with Weston, leading to murder charges that made her eligible for the death penalty.

Authorities said Maxine Lee, a disabled Philadelphia woman, died of meningitis and starvation while living with Weston in Virginia in 2008. Another woman identified in court papers as D.S. died in Philadelphia in 2005 after prosecutors said Weston fed her drug-laced food while keeping her captive in a laundry room. Weston allegedly staged the death to look like an overdose.

When the charges were filed, Weston had already served time for the starvation death of a man she locked in her Philadelphia apartment nearly three decades ago.

In September, Weston pleaded guilty to 196 criminal counts, including kidnapping, racketeering conspiracy and murder in aid of racketeering, hate crimes, sex trafficking and fraud in exchange for prosecutors agreement not to pursue a death sentence. They instead recommended her current sentence.

Weston has been in custody since October 2011, when a landlord found the four bedraggled adults locked in a squalid boiler room of a home in the Tacony section of northeast Philadelphia and called police. One man was found chained to a boiler.

In January 2013, City prosecutors dropped charges against Weston, her daughter and two others who had been charged so that federal prosecutors could pursue a case that included hate crimes and two murder counts. A fifth defendant was also added to the case.

The 150-page grand jury indictment described Weston as the ringleader of a "family" that included her daughter and three men who prosecutors say helped control and subjugate the victims.

Weston used "cunning, trickery, force and coercion" to get mentally disabled people to designate her as their caretaker, allowing her to illegally collect about $212,000 in Social Security payments over 10 years, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said.

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