SNELLVILLE -- Authorities believe an in-house hair stylist conned several residents of a Snellville assisted living facility, charging the elderly women for beauty services they never received.
Helen Cathy Chatham, 54, of Lawrenceville was arrested Monday and charged with one count of exploitation of a disabled adult, according to Gwinnett County jail records. She was released on $1,300 bond.
The charge -- and possible future charges -- stems from Chatham's time working at Snellville's Scepter Health and Rehab, an assisted living home on Lenora Church Road. According to a Snellville Police Department incident report, Chatham served as an on-site hairstylists and "had been taking funds from residents for her hair styles but not completing the services."
Reported earlier this month by the center's director, the preliminary investigation was believed to uncover at least four alleged victims -- ages 83, 83, 85 and 56. Several residents and caregivers interviewed said they didn't recall receiving, or seeing, services from Chatham.
One manager said "she was not aware of any trips to the on-site beauty shop (by a particular alleged victim)," according to the report. "In addition, she had never witnessed the suspect ... enter (the resident's) room and perform any hair care services."
A caregiver said another of the alleged victims was "mostly bed-ridden and rarely left her room," and "did not ever get her hair done" by Chatham.
One alleged victim said she braided her own hair and never received work from Chatham.
The initial report detailed at least $720 worth of questionable work -- including about $300 each taken from one pair of residents. An auditor was researching files dating back to October 2011, Chatham's presumed starting date at Scepter Health and Rehab.
Officials at Scepter could not be reached for comment Tuesday. A number listed for Chatham was disconnected.
The assisted living facility does have checks and balances, Director Zachary Wood told police -- but they appear not to have been enough.
"Mr. Wood explained that it is Scepter policy that if a resident is not able or capable of signing for themselves, it is common practice for the patient to simply mark or place an "X" in the presence of two witnesses," the incident report said. "According to Mr. Wood and other staff, the two witnesses are to sign as to what they witnessed."
Two other employees, though, said they had been asked on multiple occasions to sign as a witness for Chatham's invoices. One of them "explained Ms. Chatham often asked him to 'Sign this,' however (the employee) admitted her rarely knew exactly what he was witnessing."
"(The employee) concluded he trusted Ms. Chatham and 'took her at her word.'"