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Eight members of a Kansas City, Kansas, cult indicted on charges of forcing minors to work without pay

File photo
KCUR 89.3
The Nation of Islam opened this restaurant in Kansas City, Kansas, across the street from the Robert J. Dole Federal Courthouse.

Victims who committed infractions were regularly punished through the withholding of food, silence, public humiliation, extra work and physical abuse, according to the indictment.

Updated: October 27, 2021 at 7:25 PM CDT
This story has been updated with information that the founder of the United Nation of Islam, Royall Jenkins, is deceased.

A federal grand jury has indicted eight members of a Kansas City, Kansas-based sect on forced labor charges, detailing a long list of alleged abuses of minors as young as 8 years old.

The sealed indictment against the members of the United Nation of Islam, which was hit with a nearly $8 million civil judgment for human trafficking in 2018, was returned on Oct. 20. It was unsealed after the eight members were arrested on Oct. 25, court records show.

All eight are accused of forced labor and conspiracy to commit forced labor.

Not named as a defendant in the indictment is the founder of the sect, Royall Jenkins, a truck driver who proclaimed himself Allah after claiming he was abducted by angels who transported him through the galaxy in a spaceship and instructed him how to rule on Earth, according to the indictment.

A news release from the Justice Department said that Jenkins was deceased.

Three years ago, a federal judge in Kansas City, Kansas, ordered Jenkins’ arrest after finding that he had ignored numerous court orders. Jenkins’ whereabouts, however, were unknown and he had eluded arrest.

The United Nation of Islam, or UNOI, went by several names, including The Value Creators and The Promise Keepers, and grew to include several hundred members. It operated restaurants, bakeries, a gas station and a clothing store, among other businesses, in cities around the country. One of the restaurants was directly across the street from the federal courthouse in Kansas City, Kansas, where the $8 million civil judgment was handed down.

The indictment says that UNOI “dispatched” children of its adult members to work at its businesses for long hours without pay, often without informing their parents where they were sending them.

“The defendants required the youth members to live in crowded conditions, follow a very restricted diet, and work long hours in UNOI-operated businesses,” the indictment states. “Conversely, the defendants and their immediate families typically resided in spacious accommodations, ate what they wanted, and worked at their own discretion.”

The 20-page indictment says that some of the minors who were compelled to work without pay and that Jenkins created rules “to control the victims while the other defendants enforced the rules.”

Jenkins also controlled what members viewed and read and generally restricted them to reading UNOI publications, according to the indictment. Members were required to wear UNOI-made clothing, often needed permission to speak, were prohibited from using words like “hello” and “say,” were prohibited from speaking to members of the opposite sex and to non-members and often were made to eat restricted diets limited to bean soup, salad and occasionally fruit.

“The defendants directed the victims to shower in a certain way and required some victims to undergo colonics performed by adult members,” the indictment states. “A colonic is a procedure designed to cleanse the colon by streaming gallons of water through a tube inserted into the rectum.”

Victims who committed infractions were regularly punished through the withholding of food, silence, public humiliation, extra work and physical abuse, according to the indictment. The physical abuse included hitting them with a paddle.

The indicted defendants are variously accused of punishing a minor who burned a pie, beating another minor with an extension cord for neglecting to throw out a diaper, refusing medical attention to a minor who fainted from fatigue and denying an inhaler to a minor with asthma.

The indictment mirrors the findings of U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree, who in May 2018 found that UNOI had forced Kendra Ross to work without pay for the sect’s businesses from the time she was 11 years old.

Crabtree’s verdict was believed to be the biggest damage award ever handed down in a human trafficking case. Neither Jenkins nor lawyers representing him showed up for the trial.

Four UNOI members later sued Ross for breach of contract and defamation. Crabtree dismissed the claims earlier this year.

The eight UNOI members named in the indictment are Kaaba Majeed; Yunus Rassoul, also known as Yunus Rassoull; James Staton, also known as Adam Winthrop; Randolph Rodney Hadley; Daniel Aubrey Jenkins; Dana Peach; Etenia Kinard, also known as Etenia Kinnard; and Jacelyn Greenwell.

None of them were known to be represented by an attorney as of Wednesday.

They face up to 20 years in prison on each of the forced labor charges and up to five years in prison on each of the conspiracy charges.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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