I-TEAM: After personal care homes’ raid, prosecutors still sorting evidence
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Prosecutors are sorting through new evidence after they raided a chain of personal care homes in Augusta.
We kept digging, as well, and we’ve uncovered new information about the two owners of the First Love Personal Care homes.
They were shut down Tuesday after investigators found deplorable conditions and ongoing fire safety code violations inside all three of their tax-payer funded properties.
This all started when two female residents died at the First Love Personal Care Home on Wrightsboro Road last month. We obtained county records that showed extreme heat around 140 degrees may be a factor. Those autopsies are still pending as problems for the owners -- a married couple -- keep growing.
We saw owner Carol Lisenbee at the scene hours after two residents of her First Love Personal Care home on Wrightsboro Road died in October.
While she waited in her car, we attempted to talk to her and ask her what happened.
“We don’t know,” Carol said. “I had a couple deceased this morning. We don’t know if it was carbon monoxide poisoning.”
After that, Carol did not want to talk with us further.
According to the Georgia Secretary of State website, Carol and her husband, Sammie Lisenbee, opened the First Love Personal Care Home as a non-profit back in 2007. Carol is the CEO and Sammie is listed as the CFO.
The couple is pictured on Carol’s Facebook page where she also says she’s a healthcare worker.
We cross-checked records and found the Lisenbee’s created the business while in between the two bankruptcies across two states.
We found the pair first filed for bankruptcy in Tennessee in 1998. Then in Augusta in 2011 -- 4 years after opening First Love -- they filed for bankruptcy again.
We also found records that show there have been more than 20 judgments or liens filed against them. The couple also has a history of owing back taxes locally and to the feds as civil lawsuits filed against them.
The money trail is something the Richmond County District Attorneys Office is also working through. Prosecutors canvassed the Lisenbee’s businesses with six agencies Tuesday as part of Operation Love, looking for evidence of possible financial crimes. Investigators are now working to follow the money especially since workers say they make as little as $3 an hour.
“They are very underpaid and they are very scared because they have been thrusted into this situation,” CAVE Investigator William Loomer said. “So when we show up with a search warrant, they’ve been put in a pretty tough situation just trying to make some money.”
They will also be looking at who the Lisenbees were hiring in the first place. Earlier this year, investigators also issued warrants on two sisters who worked at First Love. According to an internal email from the DA’s office, “both Harrison sisters have multiple felony warrants and have been allowed to stay in the care homes. I am trying to wait until COVID dies down, but we can’t wait forever.”
During the sweep Tuesday, another wanted woman was found working and living at First Love.
Andrea Myers was arrested on fraud and financial crimes warrants in South Carolina. Investigators also found Myers' two children living inside surrounded by filth, including bed bug infestations, numerous fire code violations, and a locked refrigerator. At least nine residents were relocated out of First Love during the raid.
“The people deserve better,” Loomer said. “They’re paying a lot more money than you think they are, combined with their pensions and Social Security, plus whatever Medicare they might be getting. Some of these people are paying $1,500 to live here."
The state and local inspectors have found dozens of violations with the First Love Personal Care Homes over the years, some involving patient care and others with life safety issues in the facilities. Still no word on when the autopsy results will be back on the two patients who died last month.
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