5 charged with disabled abuse appear in court

July 17, 2012 - 8:35 AM
Disabled Abuse

Margaret Ngo walks into a San Jose, Calif., courtroom, Monday, July 16, 2012, as she and three other family members were charged with severely neglecting a dozen mentally disabled adults in their care in an upscale San Jose home. Authorities say inside the house would be the horrific scene of an unkempt, unlicensed care center where a dozen mentally disabled adults were beaten, malnourished and even not allowed to use toilet paper. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Neat and tidy from the outside, a two-story stucco home in an upscale San Jose neighborhood was a house of horrors on the inside, authorities say — a place where disabled adults were beaten, starved and not even allowed to use toilet paper.

The victims, mostly Vietnamese immigrants who speak little English and are unable to tend to themselves, lived among rotting food and more than two-dozen dogs whose pools of urine and feces littered the home, authorities said.

"The conditions were pretty deplorable," Santa Clara County Assistant District Attorney Charles Huang said Monday. "The general impression was that the dogs appeared to be better off than the victims."

Earlier this month, five family members were charged with dependent adult abuse and animal neglect, both felonies, for their roles in the abuse. On Monday, suspects George Dac Nguyen, Jennifer Ngo, Charles Nguyen and Margaret Ngo were taken into custody after a Santa Clara County judge increased their bail amount to $500,000. They are due back in court on Aug. 21.

An arrest warrant has been issued for a fifth suspect, Kathy Le, who is not currently in custody, authorities said.

The relatives could spend up to 18 years in prison, if convicted. Police said they learned about the house owned by George Nguyen's son from a victim's relative in May. Officers found that the residence reeked of dog feces, the refrigerator had locks on them and there was no running faucet water, Huang said.

Investigators say the alleged victims — many suffering from schizophrenia and other disorders —told them that they were not always given their medication. They were kept in small rooms virtually all day and their Social Security checks were being taken by the suspects.

Outside, the home featured tall mesh fencing and a handful of surveillance cameras on site.

"It doesn't appear the victims were free to go about in the house," Huang said. "There was excrement and urine virtually all around the house That was a very troubling issue."

In May, police removed the victims and placed them under protective custody at a licensed care center. However, someone checked a handful of the victims out of the hospital and returned them to the house, along with 21 dogs for about a month.

Again, police arrived at the home and removed three victims and the dogs on July 2, Huang said.

"I don't know what their motivations were upon returning," said Huang, adding that the investigation into the case is still in its early stages.

"These victims did not deserve to be treated the way they had been," Huang said. "We're proceeding on that theory."

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Associated Press photographer Paul Sakuma in San Jose, Calif., contributed to this report.