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Georgia pastor and wife charged with false imprisonment after people found in locked basement

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Georgia pastor and wife charged with false imprisonment after people found in locked basement

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A Georgia pastor and his wife have been arrested for false imprisonment after officials found up to eight people locked in their basement, police said.

Curtis Keith Bankston and Sophia Simm-Bankston ran the unlicensed ‘group home’ from their rented Griffin home ‘under the guise of a church known as One Step of Faith 2nd Chance’, the police department said. Griffin in a statement.

Last week, Griffin Fire responded to a call about someone having a seizure at home and noticed a deadbolt on the basement door, police say. Crews had to climb through a window to reach the patient.

Investigators determined that the people in the basement, all with mental or physical disabilities, or both, were “essentially imprisoned against their will, creating extreme danger as individuals could not exit the residence in the event emergency,” police said.

The Bankstons controlled the finances, drugs and public benefits of the people they kept in the basement and sometimes denied them their drugs and medical care, police say.

Curtis Keith Bankston and Sophia Simm-Bankston ran the unlicensed “group home” from their rented home in Griffin, Georgia.Google Maps

The people, ages 25 to 65, were all placed in housing by the Georgia Department of Social Services. Five of those held in the basement are wards of the state, police said.

Curtis Keith Bankston, 55, and Sophia Simm-Bankston, 56, will likely face additional charges, police said.

“It is both chilling and disgusting to see the extent to which these individuals were exploited by people who were in positions of trust,” the police statement read.

A biography on the One Step Of Faith Ministries website said Curtis Keith Bankston was committed to “feeding the hungry”, “clothing the naked”, “sheltering the homeless” and “helping the broken hearted find a way out through Christ”.

His attorney, Dexter Wimbish, did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

But in a statement, Wimbish said the police statements were “full of misinformation,” Atlanta-based NBC affiliate WXIA reported.

“First, One Step of Faith 2nd Chance Ministries does not operate a group home, but a Christian ministry that provides room and board to people who have often been homeless or wards of the state,” Wimbish said. .

“Everyone inside this house was here of their own free will, they were free to come and go as they pleased. No one was detained, held hostage,” Wimbish said.

Wimbish admitted the Bankstons didn’t have the local license needed to operate the house, but said they would get it.

He said the Bankstons deny the residents were held against their will and repaired a faulty bolt lock on the basement door.

“You are not talking about someone who takes advantage of the backs of the poor, you are talking about someone who is actually doing what God has commanded us to do – going out into the alleys and highways, spreading his message and feeding individuals and dress individuals. He is doing what his God has called him to do,” Wimbish said.

“We’re going to fight it with everything we have,” Wimbish said of the charges. “There is no intention to have a plea. They have done nothing wrong. Their community supports them. Their family stands behind them.

Georgia pastor and wife charged with false imprisonment after people found in locked basement

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