CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — Channel 2 Action News has learned that an assisted living facility that gave their elderly residents three days notice that they would be evicted owed millions of dollars.
Tranquil Gardens Assisted Living and Memory Care informed their residents on Tuesday that the property was being foreclosed on and they would need to move out by Friday.
Channel 2′s Cobb County Bureau Chief Chris Jose was at the facility as the last residents packed up and left at noon.
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Outraged families have spent the week scrambling to move their loved ones out and find them new homes. Some of the residents are in hospice and memory care.
“Three days of horror for me to get acquainted, to get her out of here,” Nellie Garcia said of having to move her mother from the facility.
On Friday, someone was changing the locks on the building. Employees stacked the shirts they used to wear on the job up in a pile in the parking lot and set them on fire.
”We were burned by the Stewarts,” former employee Nikki Windsor said. “So we thought burning their name, the logo on their shirts was appropriate.”
The owners sent a statement to Jose, reading, in part, “A year-long shutdown due to COVID was something that we were unable to recover from as a new business.” (FULL STATEMENT BELOW)
Jose has learned that though the families were told the senior living center was in foreclosure, documents show the owner’s other entities are in bankruptcy, not the management company that owned the senior living center.
Jose confronted co-owner Brian Stewart at the facility on Thursday and asked him some questions. During the heated exchange, Stewart repeatedly dodged Jose’s questions and asked Jose to leave the property.
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“What’s going on over here? Is your property in foreclosure?” Jose asked.
“I’m not interested,” Stewart said.
“Three days notice though?” Jose asked.
“Would you please exit the building?” Stewart said.
“A lot of people are upset,” Jose said.
“Jesus Christ! Are you f*** stupid?” Stewart said, storming away.
Stewart did offer an explanation to one man, Ken Byers, whose mother is a resident at the facility.
“He admitted that they ran out of money. They had no money to pay the mortgage, pay the workers here,” Byers said. “To relocate my mother and everybody else that’s in a wheelchair and has memory care, that’s disgraceful.”
Documents show the Stewarts filed for bankruptcy in 2019 under Five Dreams Holdings, LLC. The Declarator of Debtor shows they owe more than $10 million.
Tiffany Echols, the Executive Director at Tranquil Gardens, has been working with the state and the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office to investigate exactly what happened.
“Crooks do things like this,” Echols said. “Thieves do things like this. They stole from these residents. They accepted these residents’ rent money and ran off. You’re illegally evicting these residents.”
Investigators with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office are reviewing the facts of the case to see if it’s a civil or criminal matter.
Families and former employees want to know if the owners can legally do this. Attorney Jason Godwin specializes in eviction and real estate law, though he is not involved in this case.
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“It’s not legal,” Godwin said. “In the state of Georgia. the eviction process is covered by statute, and the statute requires not only notice, but it also requires a filing in court. It also requires a hearing and a judge to sign off rid of possession.”
Godwin said there is no such thing as a verbal eviction in Georgia.
Former employees say this is long from over. Some families plan to take their cases to court.
FULL STATEMENT FROM TRANQUIL GARDENS:
“Tranquil Gardens was truly a product of passion and the Stewart families first and foremost concern has always been the care for the elderly. Unfortunately, we have been faced with several unforeseen challenges that in the end proved to be catastrophic. A yearlong shut down due to COVID was something that we were unable to recover from as a new business. While we have worked tirelessly to try and remedy the situation and explored every possible avenue, a domino effect of things out of our control transpired at the end that led to a very heartbreaking and rapid end to the facility. Again, the safety and care of our residents is the most important thing, and we are truly grateful for all of those that have worked quickly to help our residents find new homes. We know that emotions are high when family is involved, and we hope that in time people will be able to see past the false allegations being made and know that we are truly devastated to close our doors and say goodbye to all of our residents.”
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