MAR 19, 2024

Attorney General Alan Wilson announces Orangeburg woman and man charged with keeping vulnerable adults locked in dangerous unlicensed residential care home

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced that a joint investigation by his office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (SCMFCU) and the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety (ODPS), in collaboration with SCDHEC’s Bureau of Healthcare Quality, has led to the arrest of Estelle A. Hutchinson, 52 years old, and Tracy T. Wright, 52 years old, both of Orangeburg, SC. The arrests were based on conduct occurring on February 15, 2024 at or around 243 Rome Street in Orangeburg, SC, where five vulnerable adults were found to be residing in an unlicensed Certified Residential Care Facility (CRCF). 

Numerous community complaints filed with ODPS led to a SCDHEC inspection on the above date that determined Hutchinson was operating an unlicensed CRCF at the Rome Street location, where Wright was working as a caregiver. Due to concerns over the resident’s immediate safety, SCMFCU and ODPS Investigators were contacted and arrived to conduct a criminal investigation of the property that same day. The SCMFCU and ODPS joint investigation revealed that Hutchinson and Wright, while acting as caregivers, failed to provide the care, goods, or services necessary to maintain the five vulnerable adult residents’ health and safety. The residents were immediately taken into emergency protective custody by law enforcement. ODPS Chief Charles P. Austin, Sr., commended the exemplary collaborative work of the joint task force which led to the rescue and successful relocation of the victims in this investigation. Austin said the safety and well-being of vulnerable adults is a priority concern for the ODPS.

SCMFCU and ODPS Investigators alleged that Hutchinson and Wright confined four of the vulnerable adults in locked rooms within the care facility and prevented the victims from accessing basic necessities such as food, clothing, medicine, shelter, supervision, medical services, and a safe means of being able to get out of the building. According to investigators, the actions of Hutchinson and Wright caused, or presented a substantial risk of causing, physical or mental injury to the vulnerable adults. In addition to the location having a strong urine odor, residents reporting being hungry, and padlocks preventing them from leaving the building. Orangeburg DPS firefighters identified a natural gas heater in the residence was malfunctioning causing a buildup of gas fumes inside the residence, which required the immediate venting of the residence by emergency personnel. 

Hutchinson and Wright have each been charged with five counts of Neglect of a Vulnerable Adult {43-35-0085 (C)}, four counts of Kidnapping {16-03-0910}, and one count of Criminal Conspiracy. Hutchinson and Wright were booked into the Orangeburg-Calhoun Regional Detention Center on March 19, 2024.

This case will be prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office. 

In South Carolina, a CRCF is a facility which offers room and board and provides/coordinates a degree of personal care in excess of 24 consecutive hours for two or more persons, 18 years or older, not related to the owner/operator within the third degree of consanguinity. In South Carolina, a resident of a facility is considered a vulnerable adult by law.

Neglect of a Vulnerable Adult is a felony and, upon conviction, has a penalty of up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. Kidnapping is a felony and, upon conviction, has a penalty of up to 30 years in prison. Conspiracy is a felony and, upon conviction, has a penalty of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000. 

Pursuant to federal regulations, the SCMFCU has authority over Medicaid provider fraud; abuse and neglect of Medicaid beneficiaries in any setting; and the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of individuals residing in assisted living facilities or nursing homes. 

Attorney General Wilson stressed all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty in a court of law.

The SCMFCU receives 75 percent of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a grant award totaling $2,698,638 for federal fiscal year 2024. The remaining 25 percent, totaling $899,546 for FFY 2024, is funded by South Carolina.

Back to News

Media Contact

For media inquiries please contact Robert Kittle, [email protected] or 803-734-3670

Media Contact