An agency for the developmentally disabled Friday removed five patients from a Cypress home, saying that they were physically at risk.
Harry J. Taylor, a supervisor at the Development Disabilities Center, said the agency's officials discovered late Thursday that a male patient who had been living at a Machado Family Home in Cypress had been sexually abused while a patient there. Police are investigating an allegation that a female patient had been sexually abused last month at the same home.
The center, which places disabled adults in homes under contract with the state, was sued this week by Maria Machado, who runs the Machado Family Homes. She is seeking to prevent the center from removing patients from her four facilities in the county.
Taylor said that these two incidents highlighted what he termed "a pattern of abuse" at the Machado homes over the past four years. Recent incidents at this particular home in Cypress led the center to conclude that patients in this facility "are at risk" and should be moved immediately, Taylor said.
Ernest J. Franceschi Jr., attorney for the Machado family, denied the charges Friday, saying "there is no evidence to support these allegations."
The home, at 9123 Evergreen Ave. in Cypress, is operated by Machado and her three sons. They also operate two other homes in Cypress and another in Stanton. Taylor said the family is paid $700 to $1,000 a month for each patient. Before Friday's removal of the five persons, all in their early 20s, the four homes cared for 36 people under a contract with the center.
The Development Disabilities Center has placed 2,800 developmentally disabled adults in homes in Orange County.
Cypress Police Lt. Bob Bandurrage confirmed Friday that an investigation into the recent allegations of sexual abuse is under way. He said the department received a complaint two weeks ago about a woman being sexually abused and becoming pregnant.
"I can say that the allegations concern sexual abuse and the investigation is continuing. I have no other information," he said.
Susan Fiske, the DDC spokeswoman, said the woman, who has a mental capacity of a 2-year-old, was found to be pregnant in mid-April. She said the woman's mother reported the pregnancy to DDC officials.
Taylor said he discovered Thursday evening that a male patient, who no longer lives at the Machado homes, allegedly had been abused while he was living there. He would not provide further details. But he did say that it was this allegation that forced center officials to act immediately, moving patients Friday from the home at Evergreen.
Center officials had decided earlier to relocate patients at the four homes after learning last month of the woman's pregnancy, according to Elaine E. Bamberg, center director. Patients' families were notified May 5 that their relatives would be relocated.
However, the Machado family filed a lawsuit against Bamberg and the center to prevent the removal of patients. A hearing has been scheduled for June 10.
Bamberg, who initiated the investigation into the Machado homes, declined to comment Friday because of the pending lawsuit.
Franceschi said Friday that the center had agreed not to move any of the patients until the hearing is completed. But Ralph C. Quiroz, Bamberg's attorney, said that was false.
"There was no agreement," Quiroz said.
Members of the Machado family declined comment Friday and referred questions to Franceschi, who maintained that the family was not responsible for the woman's pregnancy. He said that patients are allowed to leave the homes for up to eight hours a day and that the woman could have been sexually assaulted elsewhere.
"The fact that it happened does not mean that my clients were negligent," he said. "The center is overreacting."
But Nancy Bradley, the center's head of client services, said employees of the Machado homes must provide 24-hour supervision of patients, even when they are not at the homes.
"They need to know where they are and what they are doing at all times," she added.
Taylor described incidents that he alleged showed "a pattern of abuse" at the Machado homes over the past four years.
He said that on Jan. 2, 1983, a client at one of the homes sustained second-degree burns while showering with excessively hot water.
On June 1, 1983, the center was notified by Maria Machado that a patient was discovered to be 16 weeks pregnant. How the pregnancy occurred was never discovered, he said.
Last Dec. 28, Taylor said, another patient was burned while showering and spent three weeks at UCI Medical Center for treatment of third-degree burns.