- Associated Press - Monday, January 27, 2014

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - When the cop first laid eyes on Sakinah Robinson last August, he thought she was dead.

Her wrists and ankles were tightly bound to the four corners of a soiled bed. Except for a urine-soaked adult diaper, she was naked.

Sgt. William McNamee saw raw burn marks on her right shoulder, cuts, bruises and burns of varying sizes and shades on her face, chest, abdomen and legs. Her emaciated body was etched with wounds. She lay motionless, her head tilted to the side; her eyes open, but vacant.

The cop moved closer. “Hi,” she said, startling him.

“Oh, my God, she’s alive!” McNamee told his lieutenant before he cut her free.

Robinson, 37, was the perfect victim.

She couldn’t care for herself physically or financially. She was intellectually disabled with limited verbal skills, hidden from neighbors and unable to seek help. A forgotten soul.

She did have “an in-home care aide.” That was her cousin, Regina Bennett, 46. A state and federally funded social-services agency, Special People in the Northeast, paid Bennett nearly $24,300 a year - $11.67 an hour after a raise - to help Robinson.

But SPIN saw nothing amiss. It found Bennett’s home to be “in good order.”

Taxpayers bolstered Bennett’s income even more. As the “representative payee,” Bennett collected Robinson’s Social Security disability income.

But the Social Security Administration, too, saw nothing amiss. It simply took Bennett’s word that she was using the money to take good care of her cousin.

In Philadelphia alone, there are more than 73,000 residents with disabilities so severe that they require someone else to manage their annual Social Security benefits - totaling almost $50 million a month, or about $600 million a year, according to the Social Security Administration.

The benefits are supposed to pay for food, shelter and personal necessities. But for those who prey on the helpless, it is a lucrative enterprise that holds little chance of getting caught.

How many Sakinah Robinsons are out there? No one knows.

Experts say the physical abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of the elderly and disabled is rampant and underreported.

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