DOUGHERTY COUNTY, Ga. – Three people are under arrest after state agents said they drugged and intimidated 14 elderly victims while also committing Medicaid fraud.
Concerned residents alerted authorities in Albany, Georgia that people living in the nearby apartments were begging for food. Investigators soon executed a search warrant and code enforcement condemned the apartments, rented by 39-year-old Michelle Oliver, because of the living conditions.
Seven victims were taken from the apartments and relocated to a licensed personal care facility.
Additional search warrants were taken out on Oliver's residence where another four elderly and disabled adults were found.
Further investigation revealed that there was another residence in Macon that belonged to Oliver and law enforcement were able to rescue and relocate three more victims.
In total, 14 victims were rescued and moved to licensed personal care facilities.
On Dec. 13, Oliver, 56-year-old Harold Hunt, and Cynthia Riley were charged in a 17-count indictment with violations of RICO, neglect to a disabled, elderly person or resident, and exploitation and intimidation of a disabled adult, elderly person or resident.
Hunt was taken into custody on Dec. 22, 2017, at his residence in Suwanee, Georgia and indicted with assisting Oliver in obtaining social security benefits from the victims involved in the elder abuse scheme. After Hunt obtained the social security information, he would act as a social security payee and kept money that belonged to the victims for himself.
A third arrest was made on Jan. 11. Riley was residing in South Carolina at the time of the arrest.
"These persons targeted individuals and just through manipulating the system, manipulating the opportunities, they developed these circumstances," said Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards.
Oliver was the only one indicted for operating an unlicensed personal care home in addition to the other violations. She was arrested on Sept. 20, 2017, for operating an unlicensed personal care home called Miracle One Care Center, Inc.
According to residents, Oliver would transport victims to Riley who would then inject them with psychotropic medications and various prescriptions to keep them under control. Riley was also responsible for delivering the necessary medical forms to Oliver and Hunt to fill out to receive government benefits that the suspects would keep for themselves.
GBI Director Vernon Keenan revealed that there were 49 other victims rescued from similar cases in Georgia and commended the training received for investigations like this:
“One of the top priorities for our agency is the investigation and prosecution of crimes against the elderly and disabled adults. Now, let me be very clear about this. This case and others that we all investigate and prosecute is about stealing the benefits of the elderly and disabled persons. And the legal term is unlicensed personal care homes. That’s the legal term.
In fact, they are dungeons. Where the elderly and disabled persons are warehoused so that their benefits can be siphoned off. They’re neglected, they’re abused, they’re financially exploited. These are major investigations that all of us have as priorities and we will continue to do so.”
Dougherty County District Attorney Gregory Edwards gave credit to the residents who helped bring this case to light.
“I want to begin by saying it is important, an objective measure of the character of any state, any jurisdiction in the manner in which it protects its children, its disabled and its senior citizens. And in this instance, I think that the best of this has been demonstrated by the cooperative efforts between all of the agencies that were involved in this investigation and prosecution.
The citizens of Dougherty County came through. We always tell them, if you see something, say something. In this instance, they did that and that brought about this investigation and will lead to justice to be had in this particular matter. So I want to thank the citizens of Dougherty County for everything they did. I want to also thank all of the agencies that have supported this prosecution. We will continue to make sure that justice is served in this instance.”
Despite the arrests, the investigation continues into this heinous crime.
Attorney General Chris Carr, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Prosecuting Attorney's Council of Georgia, the Dougherty County District Attorney, various local law enforcement and first responding entities from Albany, Forsyth, Macon, and Suwanee all worked together to dismantle the elder abuse scheme.