Nearly six months after ordering a cult leader and his group to pay almost $8 million in damages to a woman they’d effectively enslaved for 10 years, a federal judge has ordered the cult leader's arrest.
Royall Jenkins was the founder and leader of The Value Creators Inc., formerly known as The United Nation of Islam. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree issued a bench warrant for his arrest after finding that Jenkins had ignored numerous court orders.
In May, Crabtree found that Jenkins and The Value Creators, which is based in Kansas City, Kansas, had forced Kendra Ross to work without pay for various businesses run by the group from the time she was 11 years old.
“Here, with reckless disregard for plaintiff’s health and safety, defendants intentionally and maliciously trafficked and forced her to work in their residences for excessive hours – all with no pay or benefits,” Crabtree wrote in his 57-page ruling.
Crabtree’s damage award was believed to be the biggest verdict ever awarded in a human trafficking case. Neither Jenkins nor lawyers representing him or The Value Creators appeared at the May hearing.
Jenkins is thought to reside in Arizona but listed a Kansas City, Kansas, telephone number on the docket in Ross’ case. A person who answered the phone at that number claimed to be Jenkins’ “liaison” and said he would forward a request for comment to Jenkins.
Jenkins, a long-distance trucker, declared himself to be Allah four decades ago.
“At the end of the testing period (1978 ½), two scientists (angels) actually came physically and took me on a small craft around the universe to acquaint me with who I am and what already exists, to ensure my success in being myself, Allah, The Supreme Being,” Jenkins wrote on his website, according to a detailed investigation by The Pitch magazine in 2003.
In Kansas City, Kansas, The Value Creators operated a variety of businesses with the word "Your" in their names: Your Diner, Your Supermarket, Your Service Station and Your Colonic Center.
Jenkins was a member of the Nation of Islam, the group founded by Elijah Muhammad, but after Elijah Muhammad's death, Jenkins left the organization and founded the United Nation of Islam.
In her lawsuit, Ross, who is now in her late 20s, alleged that Jenkins had at least 13 wives and 20 children. She said she was forced to cook, clean, babysit and work without pay or benefits for them and businesses owned by the group around the country. She also said she was subjected to physical and emotional abuse, and was rarely given time off.
In ordering Jenkins’ arrest, Crabtree noted that Jenkins had not responded to requests by Ross’ attorneys to determine the extent of Jenkins’ assets.
“The court thus concludes that a bench warrant calling for the United States Marshal to apprehend Royall Jenkins is the appropriate sanction for his demonstrated civil contempt for the court,” Crabtree wrote on Friday.
Ross' lawyer, Betsy Hutson with the McGuire Woods law firm, said that Jenkins had not shown up for any of the court proceedings and apart from two court filings, had not participated in the case.
"He hasn't otherwise showed up or made any attempt to follow the court's orders or otherwise respond timely to the things that we've filed," Hutson said.
"It's been a challenge to serve him personally and I imagine that the (U.S.) marshals are going to find it challenging to track him down as well," she added.
Hutson said that while lawyers have not recovered the full $8 million, "we have made significant progress in terms of garnishing on some of the bank accounts, and we've identified a lot of the properties and businesses that they own. It just takes time."
Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.