The Case That Prompted this Blog
April 18, 2012
Care Home Operator Arrested on Charges of Theft, Elder Abuse (USA)
April 16, 2012
By Kerry Kavanaugh
The operator of several personal care homes is now in jail, accused stealing money from her mentally disabled residents.
Gwinnett County Police told Channel 2 Action News they also discovered residents were living in unsanitary conditions at the homes.
Police told Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh they were investigating Sema Vijayi's bank records for the past five months and believe she stole at least $10,000 from roughly 30 residents.
Investigators obtained search warrants for all seven of Vijayi's personal care home locations spanning across Lawrenceville and also her own home in Snellville.
Police said they found disabled residents were paying to live in her basement.
Kavanaugh spoke to one woman, who said her sister one was of them, yet she had no idea why the state removed her from the home and sent her somewhere else.
"My sister was actually in her care and we had to find out about it on the news," Lynne Cruz said.
Cruz told Kavanaugh she had no idea her sister's caretaker was arrested last Wednesday until her family saw Vijayi's mug shot on Channel 2 Action News on Sunday.
Cruz said Vijayi had total control of all the money her sister received through Social Security.
Police said as the home operator, Vijayi was entitled to some of the money to cover the cost of care, but Vijayi was keeping all of it.
When police searched the homes last week they said their case against Vijayi got even bigger.
"We were able to find homes where the cleanliness wasn't where it should be. There was one report where water was shut off in the home for five days," Detective James Flanagan with the Gwinnett County Police Department said.
Harold Holcombe, who is representing Vijay, says she is "completely innocent."
He says the $10,000 she was accused of siphoning from her business account was used for her business vehicle, her corporate American Express card and other business expenses.
Holcombe also said the five facilities that police have identified as unlicensed personal care homes are actually independent living homes, which operate under different standards.
"They pretty much destroyed her reputation and her life with this," Holcombe said.
Flanagan said the state was to remove and relocate the residents. But Kavanaugh found many residents still at a location on Bob Hannah Circle.
Workers there denied any residents were in the home.
Kavanaugh said she could see residents through the windows of the home. One even came outside to speak to her.
Lynne Cruz said she eventually tracked her sister down at the home on Bob Hannah Circle as well. She believes her sister went without her medication or a shower for days.
Kavanaugh is waiting on a response from the Department of Human Services to find out about the care the residents are currently receiving.
Vijayi is expected to appear in court on Thursday. She is currently charged with theft and elder abuse. Police anticipate the list of charges will grow
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Any Charges Reported on this blog are Merely Accusations and the Defendants are Presumed Innocent Unless and Until Proven Guilty.