May 10, 2002
Eatonton, Ga. -- The founder of a quasi-religious group that lives in a rural compound resembling an ancient Egyptian theme park was arrested yesterday on child sex charges, along with his companion.
More than 100 law enforcement agents raided the 476-acre compound of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors. Authorities declined to say what was seized.
Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said that 80 to 100 people were on the property and that some tried to flee into the woods. There was no violence, Sills said.
The sect's leader, Dwight York, 56, and his companion, Kathy Johnson, 33, were arrested as they traveled nearby. Authorities said York describes Johnson as his wife, but there is no legal record of their marriage.
They were to appear yesterday in federal court in Macon.
The two were accused of taking minors from a similar commune in Sullivan County, N.Y., to Georgia to have sex in 1993, Sills said. York, also known as Malachi York, also faced federal charges of going from Georgia to Orlando, Fla., to have sex with a minor in 1996.
Conviction for each charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Sills said local warrants charging York and Johnson with aggravated child molestation would be served if the couple are released from federal custody.
York served three years in a New York jail in the 1960s for assault, resisting arrest, and carrying a concealed weapon.
He and his followers have provoked controversy since he arrived in Georgia in 1993.
County officials have clashed with the predominantly black group over how they use their land and have accused its associates of harassment and intimidation. Nuwaubians have claimed discrimination based on their race and religion.
The Nuwaubians say they are ''true native Americans'' descended from Egypt. About 150 to 200 people live at the compound, which York bought after moving from New York, where the group was known as the Ansaru Allah Community, a segregationist sect that incorporated Muslim traditions. York was then known as Isa Muhammad.
The Nuwaubians have erected two pyramids, a sphinx, numerous Egyptian-style statues, prefabricated houses, and other structures on the property.
When they first appeared in Putnam County, Nuwaubians dressed in cowboy-type garb and said York was an extraterrestrial from the planet Rizq. Some Nuwaubian papers refer to York as the group's savior or god.