Leaders of a Nation of Islam offshoot that has been labeled a “cult,” separated children from their parents, held them incommunicado under highly restrictive conditions, and made them work up to 16 hours a day for no pay, according to a shocking indictment unsealed Tuesday in Kansas federal court.
The 20-page filing accuses eight officials with the United Nation of Islam (UNOI)—a splinter group that in 1978 broke away from Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam—of conspiracy and forced labor. It includes a breathtaking array of additional allegations, claiming the group, among other things, denied the kids proper medical care, prohibited them from attending outside schools, and demanded some of them undergo colonics performed by adult members. The children, who were reportedly as young as 8, were often kept in “overcrowded dormitories or barracks,” which they were not allowed to leave, say prosecutors.
“Conversely, the defendants and their immediate families typically resided in spacious accommodations, ate what they wanted, and worked at their own discretion,” the indictment states.
The accused leaders—Kaaba Majeed, Yunus Rassoul, James Staton, Randolph Rodney Hadley, Dana Peach, Etenia Kinard, and Jacelyn Greenwell—were arrested Monday in various U.S. cities. They do not yet have lawyers listed in court records, and were unable to be reached for comment.
UNOI was founded more than 40 years ago by Royall Jenkins, a trucker who “represented that he, himself, was Allah, or God,” the indictment explains. “Jenkins claimed that in approximately 1978, he was abducted by angels who transported him through the galaxy in a spaceship and instructed him how to rule on Earth,” the papers say.
At first, Jenkins and UNOI were based in Maryland, but he moved the organization’s headquarters to Kansas City, Kansas, in the late 1990s, according to the filing. There, the group continued to grow, eventually comprising “hundreds” of members. Later, UNOI changed its name to The Value Creators and The Promise Keepers, the filing states. Jenkins led UNOI until roughly 2012, relying on several of his many wives to help him manage operations, it explains.
In 2018, a young woman who was trafficked as an unpaid laborer for a decade by UNOI was awarded $8 million in damages for the abuse she suffered at UNOI’s hands. Kendra Ross said she was forced to leave her mother at age 12, was married off to another UNOI member at age 20, and was ordered to work for free in at least six different locations run by the group before managing to escape in 2012.
A federal judge in 2018 issued a warrant for Jenkins’ arrest after ignoring multiple court orders seeking to determine the extent of his assets. His whereabouts were unknown as of last July, and a call on Tuesday to a number listed for Jenkins in Kansas City went unanswered.
UNOI’s businesses are scattered throughout the country, with locations in Kansas, Ohio, New York, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland, Connecticut, Alabama, New Jersey, and elsewhere. These so-called temples include a gas station, a sewing factory, a plant that manufactured personal hygiene products, bakeries, and restaurants. UNOI told the children under their supervision that unpaid work was their “duty to Allah,” the indictment states. If they didn’t comply, the kids were allegedly humiliated in front of others, forbidden from eating, and subjected certain violators to “Fruit of Islam Beatdowns.” Fear was used as a motivating factor, say the feds: Jenkins told UNOI members that he had his own daughter killed for leaving the organization, according to the indictment.
UNOI leadership also controlled all the movements of its young members, shuttling them from city to city to work, the indictment says. They were allegedly told to lie about their age, were barred from reading anything that wasn’t produced by the organization, and were cut off from their families as well as most anyone of the opposite sex. UNOI officials “often required the victims to ask permission to speak, and prohibited victims from using certain words such as ‘hello,’ and ‘say,’” states the indictment.
When they were allowed to speak with their relatives, UNOI leaders routinely monitored the calls, alleges the filing, which adds, “The defendants directed the victims to shower in a certain way and required some victims to undergo colonics performed by adult members. A colonic is a procedure designed to cleanse the colon by streaming gallons of water through a tube inserted into the rectum.”
The alleged abuse took various other forms, as well. Many children were restricted to two meals a day, which were often limited to “bean soup, salad, and occasionally fruit,” the indictment continues. At times, it says, the kids were instructed to “cleanse” themselves by consuming nothing but lemon juice for days on end. Young girls were required to maintain a certain weight, as Jenkins reportedly did with his wives, who were subjected to weekly weigh-ins and made to fast if they were deemed too heavy, according to prosecutors.
The UNOI defendants now facing charges “rarely permitted victims to seek outside medical attention,” and “often denied victims medical attention altogether,” states the indictment. “When a defendant did allow a victim to receive medical attention, they sent the victim to a doctor employed by UNOI or to [defendant Dana] Peach, who was not a licensed medical doctor. Peach would then personally ‘treat’ the victims herself.”Nor were the indentured children permitted to “receive an accredited education from a licensed school,” say prosecutors.
“UNOI ran its own unlicensed school known as the ‘University of Arts and Logistics of Civilization’ (UALC) in Kansas City, Kansas,” states the indictment. “Victims who lived in Kansas city, Kansas attended the UALC but did not receive appropriate instruction in traditional subjects such as mathematics, reading, writing, and science The defendants denied the victims who lived outside of Kansas City...any legitimate education, and required them to provide labor in lieu of attending school.”
If they didn’t comply, or left UNOI, members would “burn in an ‘eternal hellfire’ or experience tragedy,” the indictment says.
If convicted, each of the eight defendants faces five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and 20 years on the forced labor charge.