New personal care home task force unveils a local owner facing 26 indictments

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– Personal care home neglect is an issue nationwide, and there are cases under investigation here as well.

Nearly a month ago, we told you about Margaret Dale Freeman who was wanted for operating unlicensed personal care homes in Augusta. Freeman was charged with operating five facilities without a license and indicted Tuesday. The indictment charges Freeman with 26 counts including neglect of a disabled adult and exploitation. Margaret Freeman is now in jail being held on a $100,000 bond.

That task force, Crimes Against the Vulnerable and Elderly, better known as C.A.V.E., has been working to bring justice to people living in illegal and unlicensed personal care homes.

Although complex, the task force has one goal: “For there to be oversight for these people who don’t have anybody else… that are not in control of their life or their money,” Shawn Rhodes, who is a part of C.A.V.E. and a Co-Coordinator for the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, told me.

She has been tackling personal care home injustice for years. When District Attorney Natalie Paine took office, she made it a priority to bring this to an end.

“We’ve all tried to work on it: the Marshal’s Office, the Sheriff’s Office, Code Enforcement,” Rhodes explained. “She said ‘We really want to do something to close the gap to make sure these agencies are speaking with one another and working together.'”

That’s how the C.A.V.E. task force was born– made up of the Richmond County D.A.’s Office, Sheriff’s and Marshal’s Offices, along with the coroner and state agencies.

C.A.V.E. started investigating Margaret Dale Freeman’s licensed personal care home on Milledgeville Road in September. “This is one of the worst neglect cases that Augusta Richmond County has ever had,” Rhodes said.

More than 1000 work hours later, C.A.V.E. uncovered four more unlicensed care homes under Freeman’s name.

“There was no power, the house was in deplorable condition the gentlemen were very, very dirty,” Rhodes described one of the homes.

The accusations against Freeman and the charges against her are very serious. “What she would do is get these individuals who didn’t have anybody and assist them with getting their state funds, then she would be in charge of those funds– referred to as being their payee and tell them she cares for them and she loves them,” Rhodes told me. “They called her ‘mom,’ and everyone we dealt with loved her.”

Until C.A.V.E stepped in, and Freeman was arrested. Now, more victims living under Freeman’s care are coming forward– reporting her. “They realized they were living in some pretty bad conditions considering where they are living now with power, food and clean clothes and clean bedding,” Rhodes explained.

C.A.V.E. needs your help in being the eyes and ears.If you see any unusual activity in your neighborhood, report it to pchtaskforce@aug.gov..

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