Pastor accused of operating illegal group home, holding residents against their will, police said

GRIFFIN, Ga. — Police officers in Georgia have arrested a man, accusing him of running an unlicensed personal care home.

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The Griffin Police Department said EMTs were called to the home on the morning of Jan. 13 for someone having a seizure, WSBTV reported.

When they got to the residence, they said they found a basement door deadbolted. They had to enter the home through a basement window.

EMTs then discovered eight people being held in the basement, allegedly against their will. Most of them were either mentally or physically disabled, WSBTV reported.

“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 this week.

The house was being run as a group home under the name of a church known as One Step of Faith 2nd Chance, where Curtis Bankston is the pastor.

“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 the news release posted to Facebook.

The residents have been placed in alternative housing by the Department of Human Services, which, along with the Division of Aging Services, is investigating what happened at the home, WSBTV reported.

Bankston has been arrested and charged with false imprisonment. Officials said that once investigations are complete, they expect to file additional charges, including against Sophia Bankston, WSBTV reported.