AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - The Crimes Against the Vulnerable and Elderly task force is a team of investigators that focuses on helping those who may be more likely to fall victim to abuse. The task force investigates potential crimes that are referred to them by law enforcement in Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties.

District Attorney Natalie Paine is giving advice to families who are looking for personal care homes for their loved ones. She said you need more than a surface level relationship with care home providers and advises you to do your research by visiting the home, making sure they have the training to provide the services needed and checking for emergency plans, safety locks and fire alarms.

“Constantly be in contact with your loved one. Go by spontaneously. Show up unannounced. Just so the care home providers know, hey, here is a person that their family is invested in their care," said Paine.

Paine tells FOX 54 that authorities around the CSRA referred almost 200 cases involving personal care homes to the CAVE task force over the past two years. Out of those, 118 were investigated. This resulted in: 10 closed licensed facilities, 19 closed unlicensed facilities, 48 arrests, and 118 relocated elderly and disabled victims.

Investigators tell us that one of the biggest cases happened in 2017 when authorities arrested personal care home manager Maxine Donaldson for exploitation of the disabled and elderly at Shavonnas Place of Care. Donaldson added herself to a resident’s bank account, and in over nine months she withdrew almost $28,000.

“Pay close attention to their finances. They are the most vulnerable, because if they can go to the bank and do these transactions on their own, someone can easily take them with them and steal all their money,” said Paine.

Donaldson was sentenced to 15 years in prison, five years probation and was ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution.

We spoke to her victim’s daughter exclusively back in 2017, and she told us it’s hard to distinguish good care from the bad. “Nothing said ‘I’m going to put my name on your father’s account and start taking out $6,000, $4,000.’ She was spending this money like it was her own money, her own account,” said Lucinda Jamerson.

Paine went on to say, “Some of these people can be very charming. They’ve been doing it for many years and so they are a sales person”

But Paine said they’re now facing the punishment. So far, none of the convicted offenders arrested by the task force received less than 14 years in prison. “If someone is operating in a manner that is not right, if they are treating people in a manner that they would not want themselves to be treated in, eventually CAVE will catch up with them. We will not tolerate it here in Augusta."

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