The Griffin Police Department has arrested a man who claims to be a local pastor and his wife for running an unlicensed personal care home. Investigators said EMS was called out the home along Valley Road shortly before 7 a.m. on Thursday for a person having a seizure.
When EMTs got to the home, they said they found a door to the basement dead bolted and had to get into the basement through a window. That’s when they found eight people who had been held against their will in the basement.
“The ‘caretakers’ have been leasing this property for approximately 14 months, using the basement as a personal care home for the individuals, which essentially imprisoned them against their will, which created an extreme hazard as the individuals could not exit the residence if there were an emergency,” the Griffin Police Department said in a news release Wednesday.
The police department said most of the people living in the basement were mentally or physically disabled. Investigators said the home was operating as a group home under the guise of a church known as One Step of Faith 2nd Chance.
Police arrested Curtis Bankston and his wife Sophia Simm-Bankston. Investigators said Curtis Bankston claimed to be the pastor of the church, and police said he was the one responsible for locking the residents in the basement with the help of his wife.
“It was further determined that the Bankston’s were in control of the disabled individuals’ finances, medications, and public benefits. The investigation also revealed that these individuals had been denied their medications and, in some instances, medical care as well,” police said in a news release.
The Division of Aging Services with the Department of Human Services are now conducting their own investigations into the home.
The people at the home have since been placed in suitable care and housing by DHS.
Curtis Bankston was arrested and charged with false imprisonment. He is currently being held at the Spalding County Jail. Police said charges are likely coming for Sophia Bankston. Additional charges are likely for both once the investigation into this incident is complete, 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.