By the time agents went back, they found a resident eating from a filthy food bin, four inches of dirt on the floor of a dorm room and six residents drugged on tranquilizers without doctors orders.
Lord help us all if he gets mad, one resident told state regulators about the owner.
Frustrated over the states inability to close Sunshine Acres, neighbors began gathering at the local fire station to launch a plan to prompt regulators to act.
It took the whole damn neighborhood, said Dewayne Anderson, 55, who lives next door to the home.
A representative of the group fired off several e-mails to AHCA, demanding the state enforce its laws and pointing out a litany of problems created by the facility.
After 14 years of running the home and racking up more than 100 violations, Hall was finally told by AHCA to sell Sunshine Acres. But once again, regulators struck another deal: Hall was given a year to find a buyer.
Failure to protect
The Miami Herald spent a year examining thousands of state inspections, police reports, court cases, autopsy files, e-mails, death certificates and conducting dozens of interviews with operators and residents across the state.
Reporters found that as the ranks of assisted-living facilities grew to make room for Floridas booming elderly population, the state failed to protect the people it was meant to serve.
• Nearly once a month, residents die from abuse and neglect with some caretakers even altering and forging records to conceal evidence but law enforcement agencies almost never make arrests.
• Homes are routinely caught using illegal restraints including powerful tranquilizers, locked closets and ropes but the state rarely if ever punishes them.
• State regulators could have shut down 70 homes in the past two years for a host of severe violations including neglect and abuse by caretakers but in the end, closed just seven.
• While the number of new homes has exploded across the state 550 in the past five years the state has dropped critical inspections by 33 percent, allowing some of the worst facilities to stay open.
• Though the state has the power to impose fines on homes that break the law, the penalties are routinely decreased, delayed or dropped altogether.
• The states lack of enforcement has prompted other government agencies to cut off funding and in some cases refuse to send clients to live in homes AHCA wont close.
For example, the Miami-Dade Courts mental health project wont send clients to All America ACLF, where Angel Joglar, a 71-year-old man with schizophrenia, was scalded in a bathtub after his caretaker left him alone in 2006, dying from the burns weeks later.
Since his death, AHCA has cited the home for at least 100 violations including untrained staff failing to stop residents from beating each other with two-by-fours.
After Hillandale ALF was caught locking residents with mental illness in a closet to punish them along with a host of other violations the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities cut off hundreds of thousands of dollars it was sending to the home in Pasco County.
Both facilities are still licensed by AHCA.
AHCA, which is empowered with tough tools to enforce the law, said its goal is to get facilities to obey the rules and imposing fines or other penalties are secondary measures.