NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Louisiana woman has pleaded guilty in a case in which a woman relative was held captive — sometimes in a makeshift cage, federal prosecutors said.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said in a news release Friday that Bridget Lambert, 21, entered a plea Thursday on a count of forced labor conspiracy, NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reported . Lambert faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison when she’s sentenced on Dec. 20.
The federal case involved horrific accusations of abuse against the 22-year-old autistic woman who was kept captive for nearly a year.
Lambert, of Amite, admitted conspiring with other family members between August 2015 to June 2016 to use force and the threat of force to make the young woman work for them in exchange for food and water.
Authorities said Lambert admitted to one time holding the woman’s arms so someone else could burn her with a cigarette lighter.
“Lambert conspired to brutally coerce a vulnerable victim with disabilities to work long hours in despicable conditions and no monetary compensation,” Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore said in the release. “The Department of Justice continues to combat human trafficking by forced labor and today’s guilty plea reflects our commitment to seeking justice for victims.”
Lambert and four other family members were charged in July. The others were Lambert’s mother, Raylaine Knope, 42, and her husband, Terry Knope II, 45, who face a sex trafficking charge along with labor and housing law violations. Terry Knope’s daughter, Taylor Knope, 20, and Raylaine Knope’s son, Jody Lambert, 23, also face labor and housing law violations.
Terry Knope also faces a hate crime count, in which prosecutors say the injuries he caused the victim were motivated by her disability. He also is charged with theft of government funds — more than $8,700 in Social Security benefits meant for the victim.
The abuse began in August 2015, a day after the victim’s mother died, authorities said. Authorities said they abused and humiliated the woman, including covering her with material from the family’s septic tank and forcing her to eat her mother’s cremated remains. Family members are also accused of forcing the woman to perform sexual acts on others.
Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies made the initial arrests in 2016 after the woman was found wandering around the back yard of the residence. At the time, Sheriff Daniel Edward said the woman appeared malnourished and was covered with insect bites.