The operators of several South-Central Los Angeles board and care homes were charged Tuesday by the city attorney’s office with numerous criminal health and safety violations--some of them “potentially life-threatening.”
The 40-count complaint against John Hunt Jr., 51, and two others involves a complex of six homes housing about 90 residents in and around the 12400 block of South Vermont Avenue. Five of the six were operating without a state license, City Atty. James K. Hahn said.
Charged with 29 of the same counts was Hunt’s wife, Georgia Beasley Hunt, 70.
Employee Brenda K. Simpson-Wilson, 38, was named in three counts involving alleged illegal possession of controlled substances that had not been prescribed by a physician. These were identified as Flurazepan and phenobarbitol.
Hunt, who operates 15 South Los Angeles facilities housing more than 240 people, has declared in the past that he is a formerly homeless person trying to help solve the problems of people with no place to live.
“Mr. Hunt has a heart as big as this city,” Simpson-Wilson said of him in an interview several months ago.”
Neighbors, however, complained that Hunt’s Board and Care is a profit-seeking business in which he buys private homes and converts them into run-down boarding houses that cause blight and bring crime and drugs into the area.
“His business totally changed the well-being and safety of an entire community,” said one unhappy woman neighbor in November.
It was about that time--Nov. 10--that members of a joint city, county and state task force coordinated by Deputy City Atty. Fay Chu made a series of surprise inspections at the six Vermont Avenue houses.
According to the complaint, the investigators found that the facilities did not have the required smoke detectors, had illegally installed security bars over windows without quick-release devices, had faulty electrical outlets and broken windows. The homes also provided inadequate food and failed to keep proper medication records, investigators said.
State welfare and city building and safety inspectors, said Hahn, “found myriad problems at the six locations, including some that could be potentially life-threatening and others that amounted to slum conditions.”
Hunt said he had not seen the complaint and did not know what the city attorney was talking about. “The last time they were out here,” he said, “we were in compliance. We did everything they asked us to do. The health department came and the Fire Department. . . . We did not ignore any orders.”
The surprise inspections were the climax of a criminal investigation launched in August after county welfare officials reported that five of the board and care homes were being operated without licenses, Hahn said.
Social Security investigators reported that John Hunt is the payee on “a number” of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) checks being received by residents of his facilities.
Chu said that Hunt once had a state Department of Corrections contract to house at 12430 S. Vermont Ave. up to 25 parolees and persons released from prison after having served their sentences. But, Chu said, corrections officials trying to find some of the parolees found them living at other Hunt houses and canceled the contract.
Hahn said the house at 12430 S. Vermont, Hunt’s headquarters, “has a history of problems.” He noted that city Fire Department records showed 16 fire calls there during the first seven months of last year.
The 40-count criminal complaint listed 24 Los Angeles Municipal Code violations as well as 10 violations of the state Health and Safety Code and six state Public Health Code violations. Each of the 40 violations is punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.