State shuts adult homes after arrest

WENATCHEE — The state closed two adult family homes in Wenatchee on Friday for failing to conduct a background check on a man who was on the run from charges that he stole $600,000, and who was featured on “America’s Most Wanted.”

Nine people considered vulnerable adults by the state were relocated to other facilities when the state Department of Social and Health Services revoked licenses at Burris Cottage and Miss Ashley’s adult family homes.

The move came after Fredrick L. Nicholson — who was on “America’s Most Wanted” for theft and fraud in 2011 — was arrested in Wenatchee on Feb. 21 for making a false statement to police and DSHS officials.

Nicholson is accused of swindling money from people in Fulton County, Ind., where a warrant for his arrest was issued and a $250,000 bail set.

Wenatchee police and state officials are still investigating whether any residents here lost money.

Michael Burris, who owns and operates Miss Ashley’s Adult Family Home at 1419 Pearview Circle, declined to comment.

No one returned calls at Burris Cottage, 1304 S. Miller St., which is owned and operated by James Babineau.

The owners have 28 days to request an administrative hearing with DSHS to contest the state’s action, or they can request an informal review through dispute resolution.

Both facilities are listed as six-room adult family homes that specialize in caring for adults with mental health and developmental disabilities. Miss Ashley’s also specializes in adults with dementia.

The state requires adult family homes to conduct background checks for all staff and household members over 11 years old, including volunteers, students or non-caregiving staff.

DSHS provides background checks for adult homes at no charge, said DSHS spokesman John Wiley.

According to an investigation by the Department of Social and Health Services:

Nicholson was a resident at Miss Ashley’s Adult Family Home from July 2011 until Jan. 7, when he moved to Burris Cottage. He lived there until his arrest on Feb. 21. He was taken in to audit their finances, and ensure their records were in order.

At Burris Cottage, Nicholson also drove residents to community activities, and stayed with them when the owner went out.

At Miss Ashley’s, Nicholson “repeatedly refused to have background checks done, and changed his last name on two occasions,” the investigation found. In his role as financial advisor, he had access to the home’s bank accounts and credit card accounts. The owner told DSHS he kicked him out because his “stories didn’t add up and they noticed money missing.”

Wiley said he did not know how much money the owner found missing, and said police may be investigating that further.

The investigation also found that two residents may have been “financially exploited,” by Nicholson as they were billed for items the provider was unable to prove the residents received.

Owners of both facilities “lacked sufficient understanding and judgement to safely operate the adult family home,” the notices stated. By failing to conduct background checks for one household member, and allowing that member unsupervised access to the residents or their funds, the owners failed to ensure that residents were “free from neglect and potential financial exploitation,” the notices charge.

The action followed Feb. 22 notices — the day after Nicholson was arrested — to both adult family homes temporarily prohibiting them from admitting new residents.

DSHS and Wenatchee police are still investigating whether Nicholson did anything in Washington beside lie about his identity and about living at one of the adult family homes, said Detective Jason Reinfeld.

His profile on America’s Most Wanted says Nicholson claims to be a financial adviser in order to earn the trust, and access he needs, from his victims. He’s accused of scamming several victims in Indiana between 2002 and 2006 by claiming to be a savvy real estate investor.