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'Pastor' arrested after disabled people found locked in his basement

A self-styled pastor and his wife have been arrested for allegedly keeping eight disabled people locked in the basement of their home.

Police say Curtis Keith Bankston, 55, and his wife operated an unlicensed care facility at a property in Griffin, near Atlanta, Georgia.

Investigators believe the pair controlled the finances of the victims, and sometimes withheld medical care.

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Mr Bankston now faces false imprisonment charges.

A police statement said officers discovered the eight people after paramedics arrived following reports of a patient having a seizure on 13 January.

After discovering a door to the basement was dead-bolted, emergency crews notified police, who found the eight physically or mentally disabled individuals were locked in at certain times by Bankston and his wife, Sophia Simm Bankston.

An investigation revealed the couple had been leasing the property for about 14 months and using it as a “personal care home” for the individuals, which police said “essentially imprisoned them against their will”.

Additionally, police discovered that Mr Bankston was operating the facility under the guise of a church and claimed to be a pastor.

“It was further determined that the Bankstons were in control of the disabled individuals’ finances, medications and public benefits,” the police statement said.

“The investigation also revealed that these individuals had been denied their medications, and, in some instances, medical care as well.”

The state’s Division of Aging Services and Department of Human Services were brought in and placed all eight people into “suitable” care and housing, the statement added.

Mr Bankston was soon arrested for false imprisonment and taken to a local jail.

Police say they are still investigating and that charges against Sophia Bankston are likely, in addition to new charges against Mr Bankston.

The BBC was unable to locate a legal representative to comment on behalf of the Bankstons.

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