I-Team: ‘Horrific’ and ‘unsanitary,’ saving the vulnerable from unlicensed group homes

I-Team

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Deplorable conditions. Residents ripped off. Police say it’s all for money. Metro investigators reveal more and more, they are discovering unlicensed group homes.

They describe them as houses with multiple senior citizens and people with disabilities living in unsafe conditions.

In one case, police describe an 82-year-old dying man on a hospital bed with his oxygen tank nearby in a corner of a kitchen. He was on out-patient hospice care, according to an arrest report. He said he paid $600 a month for what was supposed to be his own room in a house in east Las Vegas.

In court documents, an investigator calls the home “horrific and unsanitary.”

Police say 12 dogs lived there, along with at least seven other people, including Calvin Leslie. He’s accused of running the unlicensed group home and ripping off the dying man and another senior suffering from dementia. Leslie put utility bills in his name and stole Social Security money from both men by keeping and using their debit cards, according to police.

Metro Sgt. James Johnson says an alleged scheme like this one is all too common.

“As soon as the unit was created in 2019, we had our first unlicensed group home in January,” he shared. “So, right out of the gate, we were like, ‘Oh, this could be a problem.'”

Johnson is on the Elder Abuse Unit, which Lt. David Valenta oversees. They report finding 36 unlicensed group homes over the past two years.

“It’s almost disbelief that people can do this to each other, that you can take the most vulnerable and actually exploit them the way they are,” Valenta lamented.

Police say often times, unlicensed group home operators promise food, shelter and medical care, but instead, supply a crowded home with dirty and unsafe living conditions.

Court records obtained by the I-Team reveal Leslie is a felon with a lengthy criminal history in several states, who had no license to run a group home or provide medical care. He was arrested and faces charges related to elder abuse and neglect, exploitation and theft.

But according to investigators, there is no law in Nevada to prosecute someone specifically for running an unlicensed group home.

They’d like that change.

“We’re looking to see the best resources, best solutions we can put together, so we can put forward the best legislative bill we can,” said Valenta.

Metro is partnering with other agencies, including Las Vegas Fire & Rescue (LVFAR).

“The collaborative effort that should have been going on years ago, if not decades ago, is really coming together now,” said LVFAR Assistant Chief Jon Stevenson.

He explains his team also provides support to victims, for example, by trying to find them new homes.

“The demand is this high, but the resources to deal with it is this high,” Stevenson said.

While investigators say they are targeting unlicensed group homes, most group homes are licensed and have rules and regulations to follow.

If you need to verify whether a home is legitimate, click here.

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