Owners of Utah care facility once overrun with raw sewage, bedbugs face neglect charges

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The facility was so severely infested with bedbugs that “the carpeting itself seemed to shift from the bugs moving,” charging documents state.

(Google Maps) The former site of Evergreen Place, an unlicensed board-and-care facility in Midvale that officials shut down in 2022 because of unsafe and unsanitary conditions, as seen in 2022. The owners of the now-shuttered facility were charged with abuse, neglect and exploitation charges on Wednesday, June 21, 2023.

The Utah attorney general’s office filed neglect, abuse and exploitation charges against a father and son who previously ran an unlicensed Midvale board-and-care facility for vulnerable adults that county health officials shut down last year because of unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

Evergreen Place owners Jorge Gustavo Gonzales, Sr., and his son, Ignacio Gonzalez-Villarruel, each face five felony counts of intentional financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult; five misdemeanor counts of intentional abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult; and a single misdemeanor count of violating a license in a way that endangers a person in a human services program, according to documents filed Wednesday in 3rd District Court.

Attorneys for Gonzalez and his son were not listed in court documents as of Thursday afternoon. A phone call placed to the contact number listed for Evergreen Place LLC was not immediately returned.

Gonzalez, the facility’s original owner, opened Evergreen Place in 2017, and his then-18-year-old son managed it. Though Gonzalez “nominally conveyed ownership” to Gonzalez-Villarruel in 2019, he “effectively remained in joint control,” charging documents state.

Officials shut down the facility, located at 163 E. 7800 South in Midvale, on Jan. 26, 2022, after inspectors found its furnace wasn’t working and that raw sewage had flooded into its basement and upstairs living areas, as well as a slew of other safety issues, such as having no smoke alarms or appropriate fire extinguishers, charging documents state.

Evergreen Place’s mission statement declared one of its principles as “[p]roviding personal and social care in a safe, clean, residential environment,” as well as 24/7 monitoring of residents and “reporting on noticed changes in physical, mental or emotional status,” charging documents state.

Yet, in addition to heating and sewage issues, as well as code violations, charging documents allege Gonzalez and Gonzalez-Villarrue allowed other “unsafe and neglectful circumstances to continue for at least the better part of a year” — all as they collected between $1,000 to $1,400 a month from each resident.

Many residents had lice, and the facility was so severely infested with bedbugs that “the carpeting itself seemed to shift from the bugs moving,” a Valley Behavioral Health employee said, according to charging documents.

Investigators also found “visibly grimy floors, filthy carpeting, dirty walls and other surfaces, overflowing trash, and stained and sunken mattresses and pillows,” and the behavioral health employee said “a lot of the time when we would get there … the immediate space that you’d walk into often smelled like urine or feces,” charging documents state.

Once, a resident was seen walking through leaking sewage with bare feet, and one man went weeks without clean clothes, the documents state. Another’s bedroom and body was “smeared with feces” for “days if not weeks.”

The facility’s 17 residents had access to only one shower, and charging documents note they had to undergo “a decontamination process” that involved getting rid of their clothes and wearing a hazmat suit in order to leave the buidling.

Evergreen Place also was not adequately staffed, prosecutors say. Sometimes, behavioral health employees would arrive during working hours and find no staff on site. No staffers were available after 5 p.m., the charging documents state, and food was locked away. Because of this, residents would routinely eat dinner early in the day.

Some residents who experienced suicidal ideation had access to knives. This presented an “ongoing hazard,” charging documents state, which a behavioral health employee said he discussed with Gonzalez “a lot.”

Residents also did not always received their medications, the documents state. One diabetic man’s insulin — which should have been refrigerated — was once found on a windowsill.

“The most basic of residents’ daily-living needs were not addressed,” charging documents state.

The documents state that when behavioral health staff brought up their concerns to Gonzalez, he “brought only excuses and the repeated claim that they were ‘working on it.’” Police had also been called to the facility to address conflicts between residents.

Gonzalez and Gonzalez-Villarruel are slated to appear in court for their initial appearance in the criminal case on July 13, court records indicate.

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