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Charges Filed Against Group Home Owners

March 23, 2000|GINA PICCALO

City officials have filed misdemeanor charges against the owners of the Ventura Garden Manor for allegedly maintaining substandard conditions at the group home for the mentally ill.

Ventura Garden Manor Inc. owners Dominador and Loretta Ordanel Nicolas of Riverside, Oscar and Nerida Ancheta of Cerritos and on-site manager Ariel Aguilar each face 14 counts alleging they knowingly housed residents in structures with faulty electrical wiring, poor plumbing and, in one case, a dangerously unstable foundation.

Charges were filed Monday and owners were notified by certified letter, said Assistant City Atty. Karl Berger.

The defendants face a maximum $1,000 fine and six months in jail for each count. An arraignment is scheduled April 3.

Charges stem from a Feb. 24 inspection that revealed owners had hired three residents and day laborers to remove dirt under one structure, leaving only 25% of the foundation intact for months, said Deputy Fire Marshal Brian Clark.

The work was done without permits last April.

Fire inspectors also found numerous other building and fire code violations in other structures.

Nicolas, speaking for the owners, has said he and his staff didn't knowingly endanger residents with the excavation project. He said they shouldn't be held responsible for other problems at the property that have existed for years.

Only 19 of the original 41 residents who lived in the board-and-care facility remain. Eight were evacuated last month and 14 others were moved this month.

On Friday, owners submitted emergency renovation plans to correct the problems that led to the charges.

Clark said if those plans are completed, the Fire Department will issue clearance to the home.

Since discovering the conditions at Ventura Garden Manor, fire inspectors have visited two other group homes to check for building and fire code violations.

Three developmentally disabled residents at the 24-bed Lincoln Place Guest Home in midtown Ventura were moved Wednesday from a structure that Clark said lacked proper emergency exits.

Minor violations at the La Siesta Guest Home on Thompson Street didn't require evacuation, he said.

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