Atlanta, GA (WCSC) - A woman arrested in Moncks Corner who worked for the Berkeley Community Mental Health Center on a contractual basis is one of three people behind bars in a "horrific elder abuse scheme," according to Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr.
Nurse Practitioner Cynthia Riley was arrested in Moncks Corner Jan. 11. Carr's office released details of the case Wednesday.
Riley is accused of injecting elderly and disabled patients with psychotropic medications after they were transported to an "unlicensed personal care home." According to indictments, the "home" was a collection of unsanitary apartments that lacked furniture, air conditioning, and food. There, the victims were allegedly neglected, exploited, intimidated, and stolen from.
PATIENTS "BEGGING FOR FOOD"
In July 2017, residents of Albany, Georgia informed local authorities that people living in nearby apartments were begging for food. According to a press release from Attorney General Carr, the apartments were being rented by Michelle Oliver, 39. Oliver was arrested for operating an unlicensed personal care home she called Miracle One Care Center, Inc.
"The units were condemned by Albany Code Enforcement because of the living conditions. Seven elderly and/or disabled adults were triaged by Dougherty County EMS and the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), and the individuals were relocated to licensed facilities," the release said.
The investigation widened further when authorities found out Oliver also housed victims at a home in Bibb County, Georgia. Officers found three additional elderly and/or disabled persons at an apartment in Macon.
In all, they found fourteen victims, all elderly and/or disabled. They were immediately relocated to licensed facilities.
POCKETING SOCIAL SECURITY PAYMENTS
A man named Harold Hunt, 56, was also arrested as part of the scheme. He was arrested on Dec. 22, 2017 at his home in Suwanee, Georgia.
According to the Attorney General's press release, "Hunt would assist Oliver in obtaining Social Security benefits for residents of Miracle One. Hunt would then act as residents' Social Security payee, sending money belonging to the residents to Oliver and keeping funds for himself, as well. Both Oliver and Hunt were depriving the residents of healthcare, shelter, and necessary sustenance and financially exploiting the individuals."
PATIENTS INJECTED WITH PSYCHOTROPIC MEDICINE
Cynthia Riley, the woman arrested in Moncks Corner, is accused of injecting patients with psychotropic medications but not providing them any other psychological or medical care. Riley was a nurse practitioner in Georgia at the time.
"According to residents, Oliver would transport residents to Riley who would give them injections… through the investigation it was also learned that Riley would fill out and deliver to Oliver and Hunt medical forms necessary for Oliver and Hunt to sign residents up for government benefits which Hunt and Oliver would keep for themselves."
The press release said Berkeley County Sheriff Office, the U.S. Marshall Service, and the South Carolina Office of the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit helped with Riley's arrest.
"I am very proud of our Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and all of the statewide partners who played a part in dismantling this horrific elder abuse scheme," Carr said. "Especially the witnesses who cared enough to report this suspicious behavior to their local law enforcement officials."
On Dec. 13, 2017, Michelle Oliver, Harold Hunt, and Cynthia Riley were charged in a 17-count indictment with violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act; Neglect to a Disabled Adult, Elder Person, or Resident; Exploitation and Intimidation of Disabled Adult, Elder Person, or Resident; and Operating an Unlicensed Personal Care Home (Oliver only).
LINK TO PRESS RELEASE:
According to South Carolina Department of Mental Health (SCDMH) Spokesman Mark Binkley, Riley worked at the Department's Berkeley Community Mental Health Center on a contractual basis from October 11, 2016 until January 11, 2018, the day the Mental Health Center learned of her arrest. Binkley said she was not an SCDMH employee since she was contracted.
When we asked if there are any concerns for her patients in South Carolina, Binkley said, "No. Ms. Riley practiced under supervision within the Center itself, and her duties did not include seeing patients outside of the clinic. We are not aware of any investigations involving her practice in South Carolina.
SCDMH is checking on our request to determine if Riley had worked elsewhere within the department in South Carolina before.