Criminals continue to scam people in South Florida’s elderly and vulnerable communities, so the Miami-Dade County State Attorney is taking measures to combat the crimes.
Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced Wednesday the formation of a workgroup called the Elder and Vulnerable Adult Task Force made up of law enforcement, prosecutors and elected officials.
Their focus will be on preventing scams on the elderly and people in vulnerable communities.
“Every incident of elder exploitation, elder abuse or abuse of the disabled touches our heart and then it always shocks us,” Fernandez Rundle said at a news conference.
She presented a violent example to press her point: a video of three workers at a group home in North Miami trying to restrain a mentally ill man.
The incident happened at The Family Tree Concept Inc. group home on NE 138th Street. According to the arrest report, the group home serves mentally ill adult male patients.
The video shows the workers slamming the patient to the ground, then violently wrestling him, trying to get him under control as he resisted.
The man became unresponsive and was then rushed to the hospital, where he died.
The medical examiner determined he died by suffocation, and the death happened because of the technique the workers used in restraining him.
“The group home staff appeared to have little training on how to actually deal with problems relating to mental illnesses, or how to actually restrain a person without injuring them or killing them,” Fernandez Rundle said.
Fernandez Rundle says the employees began to restrain the patient after he threatened to run away, and staff members had been trained to restrain patients who threatened to elope.
“While attempting to restrain the resident the staff members apparently used physical techniques that were not a good idea to subdue the individual, and in the process the resident became unresponsive, he stopped breathing, and he ultimately died,” said Fernandez Rundle.
Prosecutors charged the three workers with manslaughter and abuse of a disabled adult.
Employees Katherine Hair, 34, Terrence Nelson, 24, and Derrick Coley, 21, are each charged with manslaughter.
NBC 6 called a listed number for the group home’s parent company to request a comment. A person answered the phone, but hung up seconds into the call.
“The victims are always our most fragile residents whose sufferings usually occur behind closed doors or behind locked fences or gates,” Fernandez Rundle said.
On Tuesday, police in Sunny Isles Beach arrested a woman accused in a separate incident, of scamming an elderly woman out of thousands of dollars.
Detectives say Lisa Miller duped a 74-year-old Massachusetts woman out of $60,000.
According to police, it started with a Facebook romance scam, then many follow-up text messages.
Miller allegedly posed as a male member of the military, and said in her messages that he needed money to get home from Afghanistan.
The two never met in person.
Police say the woman wired $50,000 to Miller, proceeds from the sale of her home, then sold her car in order to send Miller an additional $10,000.
Court records show over $31,000 of cash and ATM withdrawals at Wells Fargo branches in Sunny Isles Beach.
Police say Miller spent more of the victim’s money to buy items on Amazon, other retail stores and Uber. The transfer of money happened back in 2020.
After working the case for many months, police identified Miller as the alleged suspect and arrested her Tuesday afternoon.
She faces one count of grand theft of a victim over 65 years old and one count of organized scheme to defraud.
The judge set her bond at $100,000.