A SELF-DESCRIBED pastor who participated in the kidnapping of mentally disabled victims - including four found malnourished in a locked Tacony basement in 2011 - pleaded guilty yesterday to all federal charges against him.
A gray-haired Eddie Wright, 54, walked into the courtroom wearing glasses, dressed in a baggy forest-green prison jumpsuit.
"How are you?" his attorney, Brendan McGuigan, asked.
"Pretty good," Wright replied.
Wright was one of five defendants federally indicted in a scheme that authorities allege was led by Linda Ann Weston, in which the defendants conspired to kidnap, beat and keep captive mentally disabled victims to bilk them of their Social Security benefits.
Although the scheme lasted for about a decade, until October 2011, Assistant U.S. Attorney Faithe Moore Taylor told U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe that Wright's participation did not begin until 2009, when Weston and her conspirators were living in Killeen, Texas, and met Wright.
Wright helped Weston confine, control and transport victims, prosecutors said. He also beat victims or held them down so others could assault them, the feds said.
In July 2010, Weston and her group moved to West Palm Beach, Fla. In October 2011, they moved to Philadelphia, where Weston; her boyfriend, Gregory Thomas Sr.; Wright; and Weston's daughter, Jean McIntosh, were arrested.
Wright told the judge that he was ordained as a pastor in 2006 in Texas. He said he last worked in 1995 at a Taco Bell. And he said he had served in the U.S. Army in Iran in November 1979, at the start of the Iran hostage crisis.
He told the judge that he was in Iran and driving an armored personnel carrier when a rock "came up behind a tank and caught me in the head," injuring him and giving him seizures that continue to this day.
Wright pleaded guilty to all 22 counts he faced - charges of participating in a racketeering enterprise, hate crime, kidnapping, violent crime in aid of kidnapping, violent crime in aid of conspiracy to assault with a dangerous weapon and forced human labor.
Weston, 55, also is charged with two counts of murder. She, Thomas, 51; and Nicklaus Woodard, 28, of Florida, still face trial. McIntosh, 35, pleaded guilty in December to all counts against her, including racketeering, kidnapping, fraud and hate crimes.
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