A group of 21 mentally retarded men were moved to a residential facility in Waterloo today (Tuesday). State officials say the men were found last weekend living in "deplorable" conditions in a century-old bunkhouse in Atalissa. The men were working at a meat-processing plant in Muscatine County.
A company in Texas called "Henry’s Turkey Service" was serving as the men’s caretakers and rented the building from the City of Atalissa. David Werning, spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA), says his agency is seeking a criminal charge against Henry’s Turkey Service for operating a health care facility without a license.
"The charge is a serious misdemeanor, so if convicted, it would be a term in jail of up to, but not exceeding, one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,875," Werning said. The men were declared dependent adults on Monday, clearing the way for the criminal charges. It’s not clear yet if the charges will be filed against one individual or a business.
Additionally, the D-I-A’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is working with authorities in Texas to determine if there was dependent adult abuse, specifically financial exploitation. Werning says it appears that were some payments made several years ago from the Texas program to the residents in Atalissa. Records indicate that Henry’s Turkey Service deducted $1,000 or more from each of the worker’s monthly paychecks for room, board and "kind care."
Henry’s leased the bunkhouse for just $600 a month. Plywood covered many of the windows in the 105-year-old building in which the men lived and space heaters provided the only warmth in the facility.