SNELLVILLE — Gwinnett County police on Wednesday morning raided 12 suspected unlicensed personal care homes, reportedly unsafe and under-supervised facilities housing a few dozen patients with varying illnesses.

The searches began around the Snellville area simultaneously at 9 a.m. on seven houses. But the crews soon discovered five more facilities, said Cpl. Deon Washington, spokesman for the police department.

“This is an organized operation,” Washington told reporters at a new conference later in the day.

It took some 150 people to complete the raids.

A 10-year veteran of Gwinnett police, the corporal said he’d never seen a bust on unlicensed care homes locally that “required the magnitude of manpower that you see here today.” Many agencies, including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Gwinnett Fire and the Veteran’s Administration, were assisting with the case and relocating the patients, whose ages ranged from 40s to 70s.

Eight suspects, whose identities weren’t available Wednesday afternoon, are facing charges of exploitation, accused of taking food stamps and social security money from the patients as rent. Four had been arrested by 1:30 p.m.

The months-long investigation began with a domestic dispute call at 4126 Wrexham Drive on May 6, when responding officers discovered an unlicensed care home, with a lock on the refrigerator and a patient left to supervise the others. There had been an extensive history of police calls to the home.

The seven patients were removed as police looked further into the operators.

Lorette Joyner remembers the patients.

On Wednesday, she stood on her front porch, next to the two-story on Wrexham Drive, and told of how they would come over and visit with her.

“I actually became friends with some of them,” said Joyner, a salt-and-pepper-haired woman leaning on a walking cane. “I wonder today how some of them are.”

They had good times sitting around, talking. One was a jovial man named Tony who kept having the same birthday every year, his age never changing. But one day he changed, losing his friendly demeanor, and Joyner suspected his caretakers weren’t giving him his medicine anymore.

She also recalled the patients mentioning that they had to turn over their food stamps and government checks. But none of them appeared physically abused, Joyner said.

After the first raid, police arrested Donovan Coward and Reggie McKenzie, hitting them with a slew of accusation of neglect. Documents obtained by the Daily Post at the time suggested that Coward might have been the head of the home, but it wasn’t clear Wednesday if he was involved in the other facilities.

Washington said one of the suspects from May was among the eight people facing new charges. Another person was arrested during the searches and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

“All of the suspects are relatives and friends,” Washington said, adding: “We highly anticipate additional charges will be filed as the search warrants are executed and additional evidence is uncovered through documentation recovery and victim interviews.”

The homes raided Wednesday, each with a Snellville address, are located at:

•3431 Pate Road

•3550 Imperial Hill Drive

•2470 Northbrook Road

•4026 Belgian Way

•1483 Virgil Pond Lane

•1474 Stephens Pond View

•4060 Camaron Way

•1495 Stephens Pond View

•1505 Stephens Pond View

•3017 Sonya Lane

•2068 Englewood Way

Location of homes

Return to gwinnettdailypost.com for updates.

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