by: Mike Petchenik Updated:
ROSWELL, Ga. - Channel 2 Action News has learned a legal loophole could allow caregivers who exploit senior citizens and disabled clients to become repeat offenders.
Susan Brown operates a Roswell-based company that employs 190 caregivers. Last week, Alpharetta police arrested one of them, 35-year-old Koronta Kelly, on charges she stole jewelry from a 75-year-old woman whom she worked for once a week.
“I think they’re low lifes,” said the woman’s daughter, who didn’t want to be identified. “I think the recipient, the consumer, needs to be super-vigilant.”
Brown told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik she was devastated to learn of Kelly’s alleged crimes, especially since her background check came back clean.
“I got into this industry because I have a passion for helping people,” she said. “This is just an unfortunate event.”
Brown said she’s concerned that Kelly could gain “first offender” status under Georgia law, which could allow her to have record scrubbed.
“Because of the First Offender Act in Georgia, this person can come out, work in the industry, working in an individual home. She could go into a facility, a nursing home, and she could do this again,” she said.
Brown, and some of her competitors in the home-based care industry, are working with state Sen. John Albers, of Roswell, to find a way to close the loophole. Albers told Petchenik he’s investigating whether it needs to be a policy change or a change to the law.
Doug Leuder owns a home care company and is also a member of the National Aging in Place Council. He said the law only requires first-time offenders who work in traditional nursing home facilities and those who work with children to report a conviction.
“Unfortunately, home care has been overlooked,” he said. “I don’t think it was on purpose. I think it was an oversight.”
Albers told Petchenik he plans to bring up the issue during next year’s legislative session, which begins in January.