KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Eight people connected to a religious organization based in Kansas City, Kansas, are accused in federal court of forcing children to perform labor without pay and doling out physical abuse that spanned years.
The organization, formerly known as the United Nation of Islam, has been labeled a cult by a U.S. judge in the District of Kansas. In an indictment unsealed Tuesday, prosecutors detail allegations of abuse including beatdowns, dietary restrictions and children as young as 8 being forced to work.
The group was founded in the 1970s by Royall Jenkins. Jenkins, a former truck driver, convinced his followers that he was "taken through the galaxy by aliens on a spaceship" and shown the proper way to rule Earth, according to the indictment. The group amassed hundreds of followers at one point.
Eight people from the organization's leadership, including three of Jenkins' "many wives," are named in the indictment after they were arrested in various cities around the U.S. They are Randolph Hadley, Jacelyn Greenwell, Etinia Kinnard, Dana Peach, Daniel Jenkins, James Staton, Yunus Rassoul and Kaaba Majeed.
They are accused of committing conspiracy to commit forced labor and forced labor. None of the defendants had an attorney listed in federal court records.
Prosecutors allege that, beginning in at least October 2000, the organization coordinated an effort to run businesses in several states using unpaid labor supplied by the group's followers and their children. The organization relied heavily on child labor to remain profitable — some of the enlisted were as young as 8 — by running bakeries, restaurants, gas stations and factories, the indictment says.
Parents in the group were encouraged to send their children to an unlicensed school in Kansas City, Kansas, called the University of Arts and Logistics of Civilization. There was no "appropriate instruction" in subjects like math, reading, writing or science, the indictment says, and those who did not attend the school were forced to provide labor instead.
Some of the child victims worked in businesses run in Kansas City, Kansas. Others were allegedly trafficked to other states around the country where businesses were held by the organization, including New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Maryland, Georgia and North Carolina.
Living conditions were also harsh, the indictment says. Victims were kept in "overcrowded dormitories, barracks or households of adult members who were not related," and many were forced to work up to 16 hours per day.
Dietary restrictions were also imposed. Only bean soup, salad, and occasionally fruit were offered to the victims, the indictment says, and frequent cleanses were ordered that included only consuming lemon juice for days. Others claimed they were subjected to frequent colonics, a procedure during which gallons of water are streamed through the body by a tube inserted through the rectum.
Physical abuse highlighted in the indictment included routine "Fruit of Islam Beatdowns" organized by three of the defendants. Those involved punishing male members of the organization for violating its code. Infractions named in the indictment included "innumerable" offenses such as stealing food.
In one example, Hadley, a captain within the organization, is accused of knocking a member unconscious. One of the children who reported this was punished by being stripped of his rank within the organization and being forced to work extra hours, the indictment says.
Many of the victims reported being struck with a paddle. Another was said to have been hit with an extension cord for forgetting to throw out a diaper while providing child care for an organization-run household. And another one fainted from fatigue, hitting a brick floor headfirst, while working inside a restaurant in Connecticut, the indictment says.
The indictment references 10 minor victims who were forced to work for the organization between October 2000 and November 2012. Some of those victims were forced to work for as long as 12 years without pay, the indictment says.
The United Nation of Islam, also known as The Value Creators, has come under scrutiny in the U.S. District of Kansas in the past. In May 2018, U.S. Judge Daniel Crabtree ordered $8 million be paid to Kendra Ross, a woman who said she spent 10 years being forced to perform unpaid labor.
In her suit, Ross said that from age 11, she was forced to work in restaurants and as a maid, cook and child care provider in several cities, including Kansas City, Kansas, Atlanta, New York and Dayton, Ohio.
In his 57-page ruling, the judge found that Ross experienced physical and emotional abuse and years of "humiliating and degrading treatment."
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