An Arizona mother who runs the hugely popular YouTube channel "Fantastic Adventures" has been arrested and charged with abusing her seven adopted children by beating them, molesting them, locking them in a closet, and even refusing them food and water.
Machelle Hobson, 48, was charged with two counts of child molestation, seven counts of abuse, five counts of unlawful imprisonment and five counts of neglect, authorities said.
Maricopa authorities said they acted on a tip from Hobson's grown daughter, who told investigators her mother had been abusing her adopted siblings. The children were allegedly locked for days inside closets, pepper-sprayed, and denied food and water for days, the woman reported, according to police.
The abuse was meted out as punishment for failing to participate in the woman's YouTube show or for forgetting their lines, police said.
"Fantastic Adventures" is a slightly corny depiction of the chaotic lives of seven kids. The channel has more than 800,000 subscribers and its episodes are viewed millions of times.
YouTube announced Wednesday it had demonetized the channel.
Officers who went to Hobson's home said they discovered a child in an unlocked closet wearing only a pull-up diaper, and described other children in the house as looking pale and underweight with bags under their eyes, according to authorities.
One child described punishments from his mother, police said. "I either get beat with a hanger or belt, or a brush or get pepper-sprayed from head to toe," officers quoted him as saying.
The children told police they were forced to act in the successful series videotaped in their house, and if they tried to avoid being in the show, they were abused, officers said.
One child, given the opportunity to drink water, downed three large bottles in 20 minutes, police said.
Two of Hobson's adult sons were also arrested. Logan Hackney said he had talked with his brother, Ryan, about reporting their mother, but never did, police said. Both men were charged with seven counts of failing to report the abuse of a minor.
The mother is being held without bail at the Pinal County Jail. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 26.
Machelle denied abusing the children, police said.
The children, who were home-schooled, have been placed with the Department of Child Safety.