Second defendant pleads guilty in basement abuse case

A second defendant has pleaded guilty in a disability benefits scheme in which Philadelphia prosecutors say mentally disabled people were held captive and abused.

Eddie Ray Wright pleaded guilty Thursday to 22 counts including kidnapping, forced human labor, violent crime in the aid of racketeering and conspiracy to commit assault with a deadly weapon.

The 54-year-old self-described ordained preacher faces up to life in prison and $5.25 million in fines. No sentencing date has been set.

Wright and three others were charged after four mentally disabled people were rescued in October 2011 from a basement boiler room in the city’s Tacony neighborhood. Authorities say the ringleader took in the victims for their Social Security checks and locked them up with little food.

Prosecutors say they were beaten, raped, starved and forced to drink urine.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal