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Authorities expand investigation into "chicken coop" housing for elderly, mentally ill

September 5, 2009 |  3:26 pm

Authorities in San Bernardino said Saturday that the discovery of squalid, prison-like conditions at a local group home for the elderly and mentally ill may be only the "tip of the iceberg" and that they plan to expand their investigation.

Police serving an arrest warrant Friday night at the home on Golden Avenue discovered filthy living conditions, including buckets of urine, and people living in converted chicken coops. The 22 people inside, who ranged in age from about 30 to 70, were moved to other facilities, and two were taken to the hospital.

The owner, Pensri Sophar Dalton, 61, was arrested on suspicion of 16 counts of elder abuse and is facing an array of civil actions, including for allegedly running a board and care facility without a license, said City Atty. James Penman.

“We have not been able to verify any licenses at all for this facility,” Penman said. “We believe she has several other homes. This is probably the tip of the iceberg, and this will be investigated by both state and local agencies.”

He said a boarding house run by Dalton next door had been shut down several years ago for code violations.

The police said Saturday that they were visiting other known addresses where Dalton may be running unlicensed group homes. Those living next door to the Golden Avenue house said they had called police and code enforcement in the past about trouble at the house and the razor wire surrounding it.

“I am concerned about reports that two city agencies were notified about problems at the location, and we didn’t know the extent of it until yesterday,” Penman said. “I will have to wait until Tuesday and check with code enforcement to verify those reports.”

-- David Kelly