Millions viewed a mom's YouTube videos starring her adopted kids. She's now accused of abusing them.

By Alex Sundby

/ CBS News

An Arizona woman has been accused of abusing her seven adopted children who starred in her YouTube videos, CBS affiliate KPHO-TV reports. Authorities learned about Machelle Hackney's alleged actions from her 19-year-old daughter, according to police in Maricopa, Arizona.

Hackney and her two adult sons, Logan and Ryan Hackney, were arrested last week, KPHO-TV reports. Machelle Hackney was booked on suspicion of molestation of a child, child abuse, unlawful imprisonment and child neglect, and the men were booked on suspicion of failing to report abuse of a minor.

When police came to the family's house, they found one child in an unlocked closet who was only wearing a diaper, according to a police report. The other six children appeared to be malnourished.

"I either get beat with a hanger or belt," one boy told police, according to the report. He also said that he would be pinched in his private parts.

Some of the children told officers that they would be punished with pepper spray. Police found two cans of pepper spray at the house.

Machelle Hackney is seen in a police booking photo provided by Pinal County Sheriff's Office in Arizona. Pinal County Sheriff's Office via KPHO-TV

The children also told police that they would also be punished by being forced to stand in a corner with their arms above their heads for hours and take ice baths. They also said they wouldn't eat for days.

Machelle Hackney denied the allegations to police. She said that the only punishments she would use were spankings, having children stand in a corner and grounding them.

The children starred in Machelle Hackney's YouTube channel that has racked up more than 250 million views since it was created in 2012. The channel has more than three dozen videos, the oldest of which was posted in February 2018.

YouTube told KPHO-TV that it cut the channel off from making money following Machelle Hackney's arrest. The platform, which is owned by Google, also told the station it may delete the channel depending on the result of the investigation.

First published on March 20, 2019 / 11:51 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Alex Sundby

Alex Sundby is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

Twitter Machelle Hackney is seen in a police booking photo provided by Pinal County Sheriff's Office in Arizona.

Mom accused of abusing kids who starred in YouTube videos

Machelle Hackney has been accused of abusing her seven adopted children who starred in her YouTube videos

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