Philadelphia police discovered four mentally challenged adults chained in a basement Saturday in what may have been part of a scheme for their caretakers to collect government checks.
The victims were held captive in a 15-by-15-foot subbasement hollowed out within the house, behind a steel door that had been chained shut, police said.
Officers made the discovery after being called to the house over a landlord-tenant dispute. According to Philadelphia's Fox 29, police heard a noise behind the locked door that sounded as if a dog were behind it.
The victims, three men and a woman ages 29 to 41, were all severely malnourished and had the mental capacities of 10-year-olds. At least one man was chained to a wall inside, and there was no food or water in the room and no way for the captives to get out, the station reported. There were buckets in the room for urine and feces.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, three people were arrested and charged with kidnapping, assault and other crimes.
Fox 29 reported one emergency responder overheard some of the victims say they were handing over their government money to a caretaker.
Police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers described the basement as a "dungeon" and said interviewing the victims had been difficult due to their limited mental capacity. It was not clear where they lived, though he said the operation might have been part of an interstate ring.
The captives were transported to a local hospital for evaluation and are said to be in stable condition. The names of those arrested have not been released pending formal charges, though the Inquirer reported they are a 51-year-old Texas man, a 50-year-old woman and a 48-year-old man.