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A San Jose woman became the final person convicted in Santa Clara County Superior Court last Tuesday in the severe neglect of a dozen mentally disabled people in a filthy care home last year in East San Jose. Kathy Le, 42, pleaded guilty to charges of adult abuse, resisting arrest and animal neglect for her part in running a care home on Cortona Avenue with packs of dogs inside and dog feces all over the floor, Deputy District Attorney Charles Huang said. “Some (residents) had open (dog) bite marks,” Huang said.
“It’s a terrible story. If we sat down for three hours, I’d still have things to tell you.” Le, her mother Jennifer Ngo, 63, and her half-brother Charles Nguyen, 25, each face sentences of four years in prison at a hearing on March 19 and more time if they violate probation terms, Huang said. A fourth defendant, Margaret Ngo, 27, Le’s half-sister, was sentenced to months she served after her arrest last May because she played a lesser role and took responsibility early on, Huang said.
The other defendant, George Nguyen, 72, Jennifer’s husband and the father of Margaret and Charles, died late last year while in the Santa Clara County Jail. The victims, most suffering from schizophrenia and other severe disorders, were denied toilet paper and regular bathing, Huang said. They had to live among about 30 dogs roaming inside the care home that operators bred for sale on the Internet, Huang said. When police raided the home on May 31, officers reported finding locks on a refrigerator door and people who looked severely neglected, sleeping on mattresses on the floor and forced to remain in their rooms almost all day. The victims’ clothes were washed only once a month before a doctor came to visit and the defendants cashed their Social Security checks.
The inhabitants lived in “terrible, squalid conditions” and some “were disabled to the point where they could not take care of themselves,” Huang said. Those unable to afford toilet paper, offered by the care home for $3 a roll, had none to use and feces from the dogs was “everywhere” inside the home, he said. The family-owned home began from word of mouth in San Jose’s Vietnamese community as a place to house mentally ill relatives, Huang said. What was going on inside was revealed last May after one of two disabled brothers who lived in the home died and the other brother did not show up for the funeral. The brother’s family became concerned and when they went to the care home, they were told the brother did not live there and to go away.
Police were called and at first the defendants resisted allowing officers to investigate, which led to the resisting arrest charges, Huang said. Officers took the adult residents into protective custody, Huang said. San Jose Animal Care and Services officers removed more than 30 dogs from the home and prosecutors added animal neglect to the charges, Huang said. At one point, Le went to Santa Clara County Valley Medical Center, succeeded in releasing three of the victims to her custody and returned them to live in the home, Huang said. A month later, police forced their way in and again rescued the three people from the home, which also had another 21 dogs living inside at the time. The former residents are now with licensed caretakers or family members and are doing fine, Huang said.
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