Share story

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — More than $8 million was awarded Wednesday to a woman who alleged that the spiritual leader of a cult forced her to work without pay for a decade.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree of Kansas wrote in the order that Royall Jenkins and his organization, The Value Creators, exploited Kendra Ross’ vulnerability, “knowing that she was unfamiliar with the world outside the cult, had received no standard education, was constantly moved from place to place, and had no money.” Ross alleged in the lawsuit that from the age of 11 until 2012, when she “gathered her courage and strength to escape,” she was forced to work without pay in restaurants and as a maid, cook and childcare provider in Kansas City, Kansas; Atlanta; Dayton, Ohio; Newark, New Jersey; and New York City.

Crabtree said Jenkins and his group, formerly known as the United Nation of Islam, controlled Ross’ romantic relationships, imposed strict discipline and that she became “severely malnourished” because of the treatment she received. Crabtree said Ross was led to “believe that if she did not continue to work for them, she would suffer serious harm.” She has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to her lawsuit.

No attorney is listed for Jenkins, and he doesn’t have a listed phone number. Jenkins was a member of the Nation of Islam until 1978 when he formed the separate United Nation of Islam after he said that “angels and/or scientists” abducted him and escorted him through the galaxy on a spaceship and instructed him on how to govern earth. He established a small community of followers and business in economically depressed areas. The group, which taught that black males were superior to women and men of other races, changed its name to The Value Creators after Ross escaped.

Ross’ attorney, Betsy Hutson, said her client, whose location is being kept confidential, is “thrilled” and described the judgment as a “powerful tool for the anti-trafficking movement.” Hutson said that there were “no chains but an immense amount of psychological damage.” Hutson said the “next big challenge” is to collect on the settlement but adds there is reason to believe that the group has “significant properties.”

“This has been a really long process,” Hutson said. “It is a result of a lot of years of hard work. We see that she has made incredible progress, coming out of this cult and facing her perpetrators.”