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Atlanta Pastor, His Wife Arrested for Holding Group of Disabled People in Their Basement

Atlanta Pastor, His Wife Arrested for Holding Group of Disabled People in Their Basement

Atlanta police say a pastor and his wife regularly locked people with disabilities in an illegal group home in their basement.

Curtis Bankston and his wife, Sofia Simm-Bankston, have been charged with false imprisonment.

The couple was reportedly running an unlicensed group home for about eight individuals, according to Griffin, Georgia police. Most of the residents were mentally or physically disabled. Five were wards of the state.

The Bankstons were “in control of the disabled individuals’ finances, medications, and public benefits.” According to The Roys Report, they ran the group home under the “guise of a church” called One Step of Faith Ministries, where Curtis says he is pastor.

The arrests came after fire and EMS personnel responded to an emergency call about someone having a seizure at the group home earlier this month. When they found that the entrance to the basement was locked with a deadbolt, emergency responders climbed through a window.

Later, police were granted a search warrant, and the state’s Division of Aging Services was called to investigate. The individuals living in the basement were all placed in different housing.

Dexter Wimbish, an attorney representing the Bankstons, said in a press conference that “there was an issue” with the deadbolt, but he also said the criminal charges came because of bias against Black men, such as Bankston.

“At no time was anybody held against their will,” he said. “There was no kidnapping.”

Wimbish did admit that the couple regularly locked the deadbolt at 8 p.m. each night. Only one of the residents had a key. He said that the resident was not at the home when emergency responders arrived, and the Bankstons were somewhere else in the house.

Wimbish said the house was licensed through the state, but not in compliance with local rules. He also added that the couple did not control the residents’ finances, but residents were charged between $650 and $700 per month.

More charges could be added, police said.

“It is both frightening and disgusting to see the degree to which these individuals have been taken advantage of by people who were in a position of trust,” police said in a press release.

Photo courtesy: Pixabay

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.