WINDER -- Three Barrow County residents have been charged with exploiting mentally ill men and women discharged from Georgia health care facilities in a case that could involve agencies across the state and include Gwinnett residents, authorities said Friday.
Barrow County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested sisters Narquitta and Priscilla Streete at their homes in the same Bethlehem subdivision Thursday. Narquitta's significant other, Marlo Yarbrough, had already been apprehended.
The suspects first caught the attention of Barrow authorities in late September, when tips came in that Narquitta Streete and Yarbrough were operating a barber shop and personal care facility for mental health patients in their Dowing Drive home. They were initially cited for business violations as deputies explored further charges, said Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith.
The seriousness of the situation elevated Nov. 11, when a Carrollton man alerted Barrow authorities that his mentally ill step-son had been abandoned with three other adults with similar handicaps at a vacant house in Winder.
Once police found the unmarked home, all four patients said Yarbrough had simply dropped them off there without medications or food, according to a police report.
"They were heating the home with the oven, no running water," the sheriff said. "All of these people for one reason or another had to leave legitimate health care facilities."
Two of the victims were sent with family members and the others to health care facilities. Authorities interviewed Yarbrough at that time and arrested him on reckless conduct charges, Smith said.
Further investigation revealed a Gwinnett woman could have been directing the discharged patients to Yarbrough, though she has not been charged, Smith said.
Another five people have been declared victims. Yarbrough and his accomplices were cashing monthly social security checks for the patients worth between $600 and $1,000 and considering it rent, Smith said.
The victims suffered from illness such as severe dementia and paranoid schizophrenia. Yarbrough had duped their families into thinking his home and program were legitimate, but the victims told police he'd been abusive before abandoning them at the rental home, Smith said.
"It's the old bait and switch type thing," he said. "The best thing I can say right now is that everybody's accounted for."
Narquitta and Priscilla Streete have been charged with one count of giving false statements to law enforcement and four counts of party to the crime of neglect and exploitation of disabled adults.
Yarbrough now faces an additional count of Giving False Statements to Law Enforcement.
Evidence was located at both homes that substantiated the charges, Smith said.
The Barrow County Sheriff's Office is working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in the ongoing probe.