Seven people, including three members of several family-owned businesses, have been indicted on charges of a coordinated abuse scheme involving disabled adults in DeKalb County.
Attorney General Chris Carr in conjunction with the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, announced that the case would be jointly prosecuted.
Valerie West, Eric West, Erica West, Akeem Dancy, Jadon Dancy, Cynthia Riley and Ceretha Stephens are facing felony charges in the case.
“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,” said Carr. “We will work hand-in-hand with District Attorney Sherry Boston’s Office to bring these individuals to justice, and we appreciate the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Community Health, and the DeKalb Police Department for their partnership throughout this investigation.”
Boston said the victims were subjected to “egregious” living conditions and thanked the agencies that investigatef the case.
“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,” Boston said.
According to investigators, the West family members allowed the disabled and elderly adults to live in squalor at homes the family owned and operated. The homes were infested with bed bugs and roaches, and at times, lacked electricity and hot water, authorities said.
At the same time, the West family at various times operated Mental Wellness Matters, LLC (MWM), Curbside Medical Transporters, LLC (CMT) and The Greatest Minds Counseling Center, LLC (GMCC). The Wests enrolled the corporations as Medicare providers and obtained thousands of dollars by using the residents’ Social Security funds for their own benefit. Authorities said the Wests billed the government by trafficking the disabled and elderly adults between their businesses.
Cynthia Riley and Ceretha Stephens, both registered nurses, served as the primary providers of health care services to residents of the homes the Wests owned and operated. Neither reported visible signs of neglect to Adult Protective Services or law enforcement. Investigators said the residents were covered in bed bug bites and reported going without medications, supplemental oxygen and food.
Akeem Dancy, who was employed by a mental health facility, used his position at the facility to identify and recruit disabled adults into the care of the West family. Jadon Dancy assisted the West family in operating the homes and their various businesses.
“These types of cases are only successful when there is a collaborative effort amongst state, county, and local agencies,” said Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds. “Through the At-Risk Adult Work Group, the new law that gives Judicial Circuits the ability to establish Multidisciplinary Teams, and training conducted throughout the state, we have been able to develop the relationships to combat these horrific crimes against Georgia’s most vulnerable population. GBI is proud to be a part of this case, and we look forward to working with our partners on other cases.”
The case was investigated by the state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Division, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the DeKalb County Police Department, Special Victims Unit and the Department of Community Health, Healthcare Facility Regulation Division.
The defendants indicted are:
- Valerie West: Neglect to a Disabled Adult, Trafficking of a Disabled Adult, Terroristic Threats, Depriving a Disabled Adult of Essential Services (4 counts), Aggravated Assault, Exploitation of a Disabled Adult, and Identity Fraud
- Eric West: Neglect to a Disabled Adult, Depriving a Disabled Adult of Essential Services (4 counts)
- Erica West: Neglect to a Disabled Adult, Trafficking of a Disabled Adult, Depriving a Disabled Adult of Essential Services (2 counts), Exploitation of a Disabled Adult (3 counts), and Identity Fraud
- Akeem Dancy: Trafficking of a Disabled Adult
- Jadon Dancy: Trafficking of a Disabled Adult
- Cynthia Riley: Neglect to a Disabled Adult, Failure to Report Neglect of a Disabled Adult
- Ceretha Stephens: Failure to Report Neglect of a Disabled Adult