A registered nurse who pleaded guilty to illegally running Escondido board-and-care homes for the elderly was sentenced Wednesday to 130 days in jail and three years of probation.
Nancy Totanes, 60, was banned for life in 2000 from operating group homes for the elderly, but took over a dead relative's group home in June 2010, said Deputy Attorney General Erin Minelli, who prosecuted the case.
When state inspectors found out that Totanes was running Gamble Lane Residential Care Facility in January 2011, they ordered her to shut it down and arrange to have the residents moved to another home.
She moved some of her disabled residents to her sister-in-law's care facility in Oceanside but didn't tell the residents' families and continued to collect the families' rent checks, Minelli said.
During this time, resident Francesca Mangiarcina, 89, died before her daughter could find her to say goodbye, Minelli said.
Totanes also allegedly hit and threatened to shoot a state inspector who visited Gamble Lane to perform a follow-up investigation a few weeks later, Minelli said. Charges related to the alleged assault were later dropped.
Totanes paid $4,571 in restitution to the families of two victims and pleaded guilty to theft and making a fictitious check, which were reduced to misdemeanor charges as part of a plea agreement.
Before San Diego County Superior Court Judge Aaron Katz sentenced Totanes, Mangiarcina's daughter, Brooke Mark of Encinitas, read a statement to the court.
She described her mother as a warm and giving woman who came to the United States from Sicily and became deeply involved in the fight for civil rights in the 1950s and women's rights in the '60s. Mangiarcina doted on her children until the end, Mark said.
"On one of my last visits to see Mom, I sat next to her squirming in the chair, and she said, 'Brooke, is your back bothering you?'"
Mark said she answered yes.
"Sit a little closer, Brooke," she recalled her mother saying. "I'll rub it for you."
"That," Mark said, "was my mom."
From within a glass cage at the side of the courtroom, Totanes tried to offer an apology.
"I want to say I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean any ---- I just took good care of their mom the best I can."
Judge Katz fired back, raising his voice.
"No, you didn't," he said. "You ripped her off. Her family members wouldn't be here crying because of what you did. ...
"She was a paycheck for you. And you should never take care of anyone else, so no one else can be victimized by your greed and inappropriate behavior."
Katz then rejected the defense attorney's request to spare Totanes further jail time.
"Quite frankly," Katz said, "I don't think it's enough time."
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CRIME: Illegal elder-care facility operator sentenced for theft