LOCAL L.A. Now

City attorney: Assisted-care facilities abused, punished residents

L.A. City Atty. Mike Feuer has filed a lawsuit against two assisted-care facilities for allegedly abusing their disabled patients in "deplorable, overcrowded and substandard living conditions."

At the behest of Feuer's office, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on Friday also appointed a receiver to immediately begin relocating those being cared for at the two facilities with the assistance of state and county officials.

The two facilities, Agape Mission House and Agape Home Church — located at 2205 and 2217-19 South Hobart Blvd. in the historic Adams district, just a short distance from First AME Church — are also unlicensed, the city attorney's office said.

“These residents are among the most vulnerable in our society and they were forced to live a daily nightmare,” Feuer said. “We are bringing that nightmare to a close."

According to court documents, residents at the facilities would be punished for failure to attend religious services twice a day, despite their individual beliefs.

The punishments allegedly included being made to stand by a tree for up to four hours, being required to translate Bible verses for an entire day and sleeping outside at night.

The lawsuit also alleges that the operators collected county or federal benefits cards as rent at the beginning of each month and denied residents access to their own money.

From January 2011 to October 2013, Los Angeles police reported receiving more than 180 calls related to the properties, including a dozen attempted suicides, numerous assaults and batteries, assault with a deadly weapon, narcotics activity, indecent exposure and burglary from a motor vehicle.

In one instance, a suspect attacked a victim with a scalpel, leaving the victim with a 3-inch gash to his forearm and 5-inch laceration to the chest. LAPD officers reported finding mentally disabled residents unsupervised. City inspectors found broken fixtures and a lack of mattresses in some parts of the facilities, according to the lawsuit, which names Kang Won Lee and Jung Hwan Lee as the operators.

The city attorney’s office has long used the civil courts as a hammer against bad hotels, boarding facilities and medical facilities it considers as failing to take care of the less fortunate.

The suit alleges that the operators' actions violate California’s unfair competition and false advertising laws, the Community Care Facilities Act and health and safety codes, constituting a public nuisance.

The city is seeking a penalty of $2,500 to $7,500 for each violation; city attorneys contend the operators "blatantly disregarded" the law, as well as the rights of physically- and mentally-disabled adults, by keeping them in "deplorable, overcrowded and substandard living conditions."

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richard.winton@latimes.com

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