Thursday’s conference, hosted by the local group, “Taking Elderly Abuse Seriously,” honed in on the trafficking of at-risk adults and the benefits that come with it.
Here in Augusta, we learned the first case opened in 1998.
NewsChannel 6’s Samantha Williams asked the Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, Vernon Keenan, what the motivation is behind committing these crimes: “Money and benefits,” He answered.
Keenan has been working to end abuse to at-risk adults since 2012. That’s when the first unofficial group of multi-disciplinary agencies came together– to get on the same page.
Keenan told us other states come to Georgia to learn how to spearhead this nationwide problem: “And the Augusta, Richmond County is on the forefront of addressing ths problem with C.A.V.E. unit.”
It’s not always the elderly, though. Ten percent of these victims are disabled adults.
In 2016, a mother in Putnam County was convicted of neglect and exploitation of her 23-year-old daughter who has a severe disability: “The mother wanted to live off of the social security benefits to the detriment of their daughter with severe cerebral palsy.”
Pat King, manager of special forensics for aging services, told us personal benefits are always the motive–and it’s more than money. Illegal care home owners have stolen victim’s identities, EBT cards, filed false income taxes and have even stolen their medications.
She shared a story of an elderly man who had been trapped in this basement for months, then somehow managed to escape: “Every single day he would be a clump of his hair down there. He wanted to somebody to know he was there.”
And there are more images in the news story showing living conditions victims in Athens managed to survive: “There is no running water. There is no heat. There is no air. The toilet is a bucket, a lot of time they eat balagna sandwiches,” Heather Strickland, GBI Assistant Special Agent for Crimes Against the Disabled and Elderly, described of some of the homes.
Agencies need YOUR help. If you see an abnormal activity in your neighborhood or around town, don’t hesitate to contact your local law enforcement or the CAVE task force.
Richmond County Dispatch: 706-821-1242
Crimes Against the Vulnerable and Elderly (CAVE) Task Force: 706-821-1150