For the second time in five weeks, authorities on Tuesday swept two Chicago-area nursing homes for residents with outstanding arrest warrants, this time identifying 20 people wanted on charges ranging from assault to domestic battery to indecent exposure.
The early morning raids involved about 25 federal marshals, Chicago police, Cook County sheriff's police and investigators from the Illinois attorney general's office. The effort was initiated by state Attorney General Lisa Madigan in response to Tribune investigative reports about Illinois nursing facilities that house high numbers of felons and report violent crimes against elderly and disabled residents.
"We are working to keep Illinois nursing homes safe, and not safe houses for fugitives," said Madigan, who pledged to continue the warrant sweeps.
Eight people were arrested Tuesday morning, Madigan's office said. Nine warrants were not immediately enforceable because they were issued in other jurisdictions, and two fugitives were too sick to be taken into custody. Authorities are still seeking the final fugitive, who was not on the premises at the time of the raids.
In Tuesday's sweep and a previous effort last month, authorities have now issued a total of 41 warrants and made 13 arrests. "Forty-one (fugitive) warrants in four facilities is incredibly troubling to all of us, so this work will continue," said Madigan's deputy chief of staff Cara Smith, who participated in the raids.
The team found 11 people with outstanding warrants and made three arrests at Rainbow Beach Care Center, and found nine fugitives and made five arrests at Kenwood Healthcare Center. The two facilities are three miles apart on the South Side.
Albert Milstein, a part-owner of Kenwood, said "the facility cooperated fully with all the various governmental agencies that were there. ... It's a fine facility, it's operated well, and we do our best to comply with all governmental regulations."
Rainbow Beach administrator Blake Willey said in a written statement: "We are pleased to work in partnership with law enforcement through self-reporting and as we did today. Though our background checks show convictions, only law enforcement officials have access to information about outstanding warrants. The process worked."
The two facilities targeted Tuesday house relatively large numbers of felons and had frequent police reports of violence, state records show.
In December, state records listed 18 felons among Rainbow Beach's roughly 193 residents, all of whom had a primary diagnosis of mental illness. Between March 2008 and July 2009, Chicago police reports alleged 17 assaults or batteries at the facility, three cases of narcotics possession and two incidents of sexual violence.
At Kenwood during the same period, police reports alleged 30 assaults or batteries and six narcotics cases. The facility in December reported 95 felons among its 172 residents, only nine of whom were diagnosed with mental illness.
Madigan said Tuesday that she was dismayed and angered by Tribune reports of safety breaches in nursing homes, and she again called on the state Department of Public Health to better enforce current safety regulations.
The newspaper has reported that the criminal background checks and risk assessments carried out for new residents of the state's nursing homes often were riddled with errors and omissions, and in some cases downplayed the risk that offenders posed to vulnerable residents.
Madigan, who pushed for the background check program, said: "The law is not being complied with, and I don't know if it is because the Department of Public Health doesn't have an interest in identifying criminals. ... We've communicated our frustration and disappointment and outright anger about this to the Department of Public Health."
She added: "You can have laws on the books that are intended to protect residents of nursing homes, but they are irrelevant if they are not actually enforced."
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