During the July heat last summer, Albany authorities first heard that folks in an area apartment complex were begging for food.
Those reports were the first thread that law enforcement officers pulled in what state Attorney General Chris Carr on Tuesday called an "organized web of abuse."
What investigators found, according to Carr, were three conspirators who, among them, kept 14 elderly or disabled Georgians in unlicensed personal care homes in Albany and Macon, drugged them and siphoned off their Social Security payments.
Three elderly or disabled people were found living in the 2400 block of Houston Avenue in Macon, near the intersection of Broadway and Eisenhower Parkway.
All 14 people have been relocated to other homes, Carr said.
"The legal term is 'unlicensed personal care homes.' That’s the legal term," GBI Director Vernon Keenan said during a news conference in Atlanta. "In fact, they are dungeons where the elderly and disabled persons are warehoused so that their benefits can be siphoned off. They're neglected, they're abused, they're financially exploited."
Michelle Oliver, Harold Hunt and Cynthia Riley have been charged in a 17-count indictment with violations of racketeering law and abuse and neglect of elderly or disabled people. Oliver was also charged with operating an unlicensed personal care home.
Carr said Hunt would help Oliver obtain Social Security benefits for residents. "Hunt would then act as the residents' Social Security payee, sending money belonging to the residents to Oliver and keeping funds for himself as well. Both Oliver and Hunt were depriving the residents of health care, shelter and necessary sustenance and financially exploiting the individuals," Carr said.
The apartments Oliver rented out in Albany were condemned for being unlivable, according to Carr.
Riley was the last person to be arrested, just last week, in Moncks Corner, South Carolina.
Carr said that according to residents, they would be brought to Riley, a nurse.
Riley "would give them injections of psychotropic medications and various prescriptions. The residents reported they did not receive any other psychological or medical care," Carr said.
He and Keenan said investigating elder abuse is a top priority.
"In 2017, there were 49 victims that were rescued through the investigation of these type cases, these dungeons," Keenan said. Carr urged people who see something suspicious to report it to authorities.
People can call 911, their police or sheriff, or the Georgia Department of Human Services Division of Aging hotline: 1-866-55AGING.