FORT PIERCE, Fla. -- The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office says a mother and daughter are responsible for running an illegal assisted living facility in Fort Pierce for the last six years.
68- year-old Alfred Charlevoix and her daughter, 36-year-old Claytresia Yearby, were arrested and released on bond for illegally running Jean's House of Refuge.
The facility has been shut down and the Florida Department of Children and Families is placing the patients in other care facilities, according to the sheriffs office.
St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara says the facility cared for mentally challenged adults, and would charge them $500 a month for caregiving services.
The staff would care for 12 patients at 313 Essex Dr. and 310 Essex Dr. in Fort Pierce.
"I want to go on the record and say the place was very clean, it was very orderly," Mascara said.
However, Mascara says, staff members would lock patients in their rooms with a dead bolt lock with no way out. Investigators are working to determine how long patients would remain locked in their rooms.
He says there were also locks on the refrigerator, limiting patients' access to food and water.
Additionally, he said the staff had no medical training.
Mascara says the sheriff's office is also investigating whether the facility was fraudulently using patient's EBT cards to purchase food on top of the monthly fee.
Isaiah Dunbar says he was satisfied with the level of care given to his mentally challenged niece. "My niece does not want to leave," Dunbar said.
"I have confidence in (the caretaker's) abilities. I have confidence in the way she takes care of people. I've been there on several occasions and she asked me, 'Do you smell urine? Do you smell anything?' Nothing of the sorts. She cooked for the patients," Dunbar said.
Mascara says nine patients were housed together in one of the homes, with one bathroom. "God forbid if there was a fire or any kind of emergency developed with no one there. It would have been a tragedy," Sheriff Mascara said.
Staff members did not want to talk about the arrests.
Dunbar says he is disappointed that he has to find new caregivers for his niece. "I didn't know she didn't have a license."
Dunbar says he learned of Jean's House of Refuge through New Horizons, a local, established care facility.
A spokesperson with New Horizon's says Jean's House of Refuge was listed on a caregiver database that their clients can access, saying they are not required to check whether the facilities they list are licensed.
The spokesperson says it is ultimately the client's role to decide who they want to care for them.
New Horizon's also says they do not refer clients to any specific facilities.
Sheriff Mascara says there a likely many more facilities operating illegally in the city. Anyone with information about any of them is asked to contact law enforcement.