Seven individuals have been indicted in an alleged abuse scheme victimizing disabled adults in DeKalb County, state Attorney General Chris Carr announced Wednesday.
Three of those indicted operated homes for people with mental and physical disabilities, the attorney general said in a press release. The three – Eric West, Valerie West and Erica West – allegedly obtained control over the individuals’ finances and housed them in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
The homes were infested with bedbugs and roaches and at times lacked electricity and hot water, Carr said.
“The neglect and trafficking of at-risk adults is unfortunately a sordid reality in Georgia – as seen through the revolting details of this case,” said Carr in a statement. “These individuals demonstrated a complete disregard for human life, developing a cruel scheme that deprived disabled Georgians of basic necessities to survive and stripped them of their rightful financial benefits. We will work hand-in-hand with District Attorney Sherry Boston’s office to bring these individuals to justice.’’
Boston, as DA for the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit, oversees felony cases filed in the Superior Court of DeKalb County.
The Wests at various times operated three businesses that were enrolled as Medicare providers, according to the attorney general’s office. Officials said the West family obtained thousands of dollars by directly using the Social Security funds of disabled and elderly individuals and by trafficking the residents between businesses and billing the government.
Akeem Dancy and Jadon Dancy were indicted on charges of trafficking of a disabled adult.
Also indicted were nurses Cynthia Riley and Ceretha Stephens. Neither reported visible signs of neglect at the West homes to the state Adult Protective Services or law enforcement, Carr’s office said. These signs included residents covered in bedbug bites, residents reporting not receiving medications, and residents reporting not being able to use supplemental oxygen and feeding tubes, officials said.
“The victims in this case were subjected to egregious living conditions while simultaneously being isolated from their families,” said Boston in a statement. “This indictment stands for the right of disabled adults to be treated with respect and dignity and to be provided with certain basic amenities. We will not tolerate this abhorrent behavior in DeKalb County and are thankful for the collaborative efforts of our law enforcement partners in the effort to bring these defendants to justice for their callous actions against one of our most vulnerable populations.”
The Georgia Department of Community Health aided in the investigation.
The agency “is privileged to assist law enforcement and other state agencies in pursuing actions against unlicensed facilities such as this one and will continue to do so alongside our partners,” said Community Health’s commissioner, Frank Berry, in a statement.
Unlicensed group homes for people with disabilities and the elderly have been a longstanding problem in Georgia.
The abuse case was investigated by the Medicaid Fraud Control Division of the Attorney General’s Office; the Georgia Bureau of Investigation; and the DeKalb County Police Department, Special Victims Unit. The case is being jointly prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office and the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office.
Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News