LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Executives of a Los Angeles senior living home are facing criminal charges for a COVID-19 outbreak that officials say led to the deaths of 13 residents and an employee in the early days of the pandemic.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced the charges Tuesday against Silverado Senior Living Management Inc., its CEO and corporate officers and a facility administrator. Charges include felony elder endangerment.
Gascón said the outbreak was one of the worst at any facility in California.
The DA's office alleges that in March 2020 the Beverly Place facility in the Fairfax District accepted a patient from New York - where COVID cases were already rising - without testing that individual.
That patient allegedly brought the coronavirus into the facility, leading to more than 100 infections, the deaths of 13 patients and a 32-year-old nurse who treated him.
"They told us, don't worry, your parents are safe," said Helena Apothaker, whose mother died at the facility. "You can't come in, other people can't come in, we don't need any extra care. We've got it, we're on lockdown. Nobody can see your parents, don't you worry. They're safe."
Apothaker is now part of a pending civil suit against the agency. Her attorney, Jody Moore, is representing six other family members who died from COVID-19 at Silverado.
"The charges are important. They shine a light on a broken system," Moore said. "They are shining a light on corporate greed."
Three managers are facing charges that include 13 felony counts of elder endangerment and five felony counts of violation causing death.
The individuals charged were identified as Loren Bernard Shook, 72, Jason Michael Russo, 49, and Kimberly Cheryl Butrum, 67. Their positions with the company were not specified.
The Irvine-based corporation itself is also facing charges.
Late Tuesday, the company released a statement in response to the charges. The statement from Jeff Frum, Silverado senior vice president and spokesman, read:
"Silverado's top priority is and always has been providing world-class care, respect, and dignity to people living with dementia and a caring environment for our associates. We deny all charges filed against us - they are baseless and egregiously contradict the facts. We look forward to presenting our case during the legal process."
"We will always grieve the loss of the residents to the pandemic and the frontline hero who cared for them. We have taken the pandemic extremely seriously since the start. We recognized COVID-19's unprecedented threat to society, particularly for people living with dementia and their caregivers. Silverado was a leader in developing protocols for people living with dementia and many of these same protocols became standards for the entire memory care industry."
The corporation entered a not-guilty plea on Tuesday and the three individuals are expected to face arraignment next month.
Those who died ranged in age from 32 to 94.
"The investigation revealed that the Silverado management team was aware of the risks associated with admitting a new resident from a high-risk area and failed to follow the appropriate procedures to protect their employees and the vulnerable people in their care," Gascón said.
"These careless decisions created conditions that needlessly exposed Silverado staff and its residents to serious injury and - tragically - death."