Authorities found up to eight people locked in the basement of a Georgia pastor and his wife, police said.
A statement from the Griffin Police Department said that Curtis Keith Bankston and Sophia Simm-Bankston were operating the unlicensed "group home" out of a house they rented in Griffin "under the guise of a church, One Step of Faith 2nd Chance."
The Griffin Fire Department responded last week to a call about someone having a seizure at the home, and noticed a deadbolt on the basement door, police said. Medics reached the patient through a window.
According to police, there were nearly 20 people with mental or physical disabilities in the basement who were "essentially imprisoned against their will," creating an extreme hazard since they couldn't escape the house in case of an emergency.
Apparently, the Bankstons controlled finances, medications and public benefits for the people they housed in the basement, denying them medical care and medications.
The Georgia Department of Human Services placed the people in housing, ranging in age from 25 to 65. According to police, five of those confined in the basement are state wards.
Police said Curtis Keith Bankston, 55, and Sophia Simm-Bankston, 56, would likely face additional charges.
In a police statement, officers said that it is both frightful and disgusting to see the extent to which these individuals were taken advantage of by people in a position of trust.
According to Curtis Keith Bankston's bio on One Step Of Faith Ministries' website, he "feeds the hungry," "clothes the naked," hosts the homeless, and "helps the brokenhearted through Christ."
Dexter Wimbish, his attorney, did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
According to NBC affiliate WXIA of Atlanta, Wimbish said police statements contained misinformation in a statement.
Wimbish acknowledged that the Bankstons lack the license necessary to operate the home, but said they would obtain it.
A faulty bolt lock on the basement door had been repaired by the Bankstons, he said, but the Bankstons denied the residents had been held against their will.